Success brings terrible burden;Primary Review

9th July 1999 at 01:00
As the chief inspector credits teachers with raising standards, one head finds success is a double-edged sword.

THERE is more to leading an outstanding primary school than invitations to tea with Prince Charles.

Margarita Mooney, head of St Francis De Sales infants school, Tottenham, north London, was among a group of "successful and exceptional headteachers" invited to Highgrove last half-term after her school was picked out by the Office for Standards in Education as one of the best in the country.

But she describes the excellent OFSTED report that started the fuss as a "terrible burden" on her school.

"At the start, we were having an average of two visits a day. People wanted to know how we did it. They were asking about the filing system: How did we do it? You thought, God, you've been doing it for years, why do you want to know that?

"Not only is it my time that is committed, but every time the teacher lifts her head there is somebody in the class. I have got to the stage where I don't tell anybody any more that somebody is coming. The children are so used to visitors that they don't take any notice. I have to tell visitors that our children are not rude, just used to it," she says.

Success has also brought a "tall poppy" effect, with the spotlight firmly put on the school's test results this year. Happily, there was no embarrassment: despite an intake from a deprived inner-city area, 97 per cent of pupils achieved at least level 2 in maths, 95 per cent in reading comprehension and 91 per cent in writing.

The challenge, according to Miss Mooney, is to find ways of communicating the secrets of St Francis's achievement - including setted learning, careful financial management, close co-operation with parents, question-by-question analysis of test results, and extensive use of drama to build pupil self-esteem and social skills - without overburdening the school.

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