What a difference six months make

14th March 1997 at 00:00
As the last bell rang at The Ridings on Friday, pupils strolled quietly into the new computer room to get on with their literacy projects. Lee Cartwright, 13, said he wanted to work late to improve on his latest score of "only 67 per cent".

There was no hint of the political storm breaking a mile away at Calderdale town hall as OFSTED's unflattering verdict on the Labour-controlled council began to leak out.

It was also difficult to remember that this was the school inspectors closed six months ago because pupils' riotous behaviour had been judged too dangerous.

OFSTED inspectors have been regularly monitoring the school since the crisis. Their latest report said that "in lessons, the majority of pupils responded well to good teaching and behaved well...the signs from this visit are positive".

Acting head Peter Clark said that The Ridings' infamous reputation had not deterred job applicants - five new members of staff are due to start next term, and there have been plenty of applications for the permanent head and deputy posts. No teachers have been sacked, but several temporary contracts have ended. Mr Clark said that the high staff turnover had exacerbated problems - one GCSE class was on its fifth teacher in a year. "The first question that all new teachers are asked is 'How long are you going to stay?'".

Mr Clark and his associate head, Anna White, have had to work hard persuading prospective pupils and their parents in primary feeder schools to have faith in The Ridings. "At one point we thought we'd only get 30 coming up; but now it's 100." Pupils transferred by their parents to other schools are also returning, and the school has gained 15 new pupils since February.

Mr Clark said he had done 68 radio and TV interviews, plus countless press interviews, since November.

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