'Staff have lost will to improve'

8th November 1996 at 00:00
The emergency inspection report on the troubled Ridings School was published this week by OFSTED. Below is an edited extract.

The Ridings School is a mixed comprehensive secondary school with a small sixth form operating within a selective system.

Situated on the outskirts of Halifax, it serves mainly the communities of Ovenden, Mixenden and Illingworth which are mostly areas of residential estates. Many of the more able pupils attend other schools within the area.

The vast majority of the pupils are white, with few from ethnic minorities. Many pupils come from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Forty per cent of the pupils are registered to receive free school meals. Results from key stage 2 standard assessment tests and other data indicate that approximately 25 per cent of pupils in Year 7 have average or above average ability. Some pupils attain high levels in national curriculum tests at key stage 3 and then transfer at age 14 to other schools. Pupils currently in key stage 4 entered secondary education at a time of selection at age 11. Approximately 23 per cent of pupils are identified by the school as having special educational needs.

MAIN FINDINGS:

* Standards of achievement are unsatisfactory. External examination results are poor, both in relation to the average for all secondary schools, and by comparison with schools having a similar intake. Four in 10 pupils leave school without any GCSE qualifications. Attainment was less than satisfactory in about half the lessons.

* The quality of teaching was satisfactory or better in under three-fifths of the lessons; some lessons were effective but in others little teaching or learning took place. While some teachers use appropriate methods and engage pupils' interest, others cannot control the class and ensure that pupils learn effectively.

* Leadership and management of the school are weak. There are few clear policies. Systems are not implemented consistently. The governing body is not well informed about what is going on in the school, and is not meeting all its statutory obligations. A number of staff, some in senior positions, have lost the will to bring about improvement. Financial planning lacks clear direction and the school does not give value for money.

* About a quarter of the pupils in the school have special educational needs. There is a comprehensive policy for meeting these needs, but this policy is not implemented consistently. Some teachers lack specific expertise and the best practice in the school is not being sufficiently shared.

* Relationships between teachers and pupils range from very good to strained or confrontational. Pupils' behaviour in lessons ranged from good to poor. A lack of effective supervision around the school, particularly at breaks and lunchtimes, allowed the poor behaviour of some pupils to get out of hand. Attendance and punctuality are poor; levels of internal truancy are high. The school's systems for monitoring attendance, and the actions taken to improve behaviour, are ineffective. The school does not know the whereabouts of all its pupils. Poor attendance and behaviour have an adverse effect on progress and achievement.

* The amalgamation of the two schools which joined to form The Ridings School has not been successfully achieved. There is an atmosphere of underlying distrust and uncertainty.

KEY ISSUES:

The staff, governors and local education authority (LEA) need, with urgency, to:

* take immediate action to re-establish good order and control, to ensure the physical safety of pupils, and to have systems in place which will ensure that the school knows the whereabouts of all pupils;

* raise standards of pupils' achievement in all subjects;

* improve the quality of teaching in order to tackle underachievement and in particular improve classroom management and discipline;

* strengthen management and leadership at every level and ensure that communication is improved and policies are implemented;

* improve the governing body's systems for decision-making, financial control and for monitoring the life and work of the school, and the quality of its educational provision;

* raise levels of attendance and improve the behaviour of pupils;

* fully implement the existing sound policy for pupils with special educational needs;

* collaborate to bring about a unity of purpose among the staff, including a collective and individual acceptance and consistent discharge of responsibilities, on behalf of all pupils in the school.

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