INADEQUATE that’s the damning conclusion of government inspectors who have put March Neale-Wade Community College into special measures.
A report published this week finally confirmed rumours the school failed an Ofsted inspection just before Easter and is now on notice to improve.
But new Principal Jason Wing, who took on the role in September just 24 working weeks before the inspectors’ visit, is confident that in two years - the deadline set by Ofsted, his school will be special for all the right reasons.
Speaking at a press briefing Mr Wing, who is praised in the inspector’s report for his new management line, said he was determined to make the school not only good but outstanding, putting it in the top 25 per cent in the country.
It is a monumental task given the inspectors’ findings which rated the college as inadequate in all areas from teaching, to learning and performance through to student behaviour.
Teachers came under attack for the poor quality of lessons with the report stating: “The quality of teaching is unsatisfactory. This is not just because of the quality of individual lessons, although too many of these are not good enough. The quality of marking, planning and homework is not good enough either.”
But Mr Wing said he was already on the case and that all members of staff have been told to lift their performance.
And he is personally carrying out daily ‘mini inspections’, making unannounced visits to classrooms and checking pupils’ books to make sure they are being properly marked and to monitor the quality of lessons.
He admitted that when he took over the post of Principal he was not aware of just how poorly the school was doing. But he said within weeks it began to sink in and he had already started work to improve.
“We hoped we might scrape through the inspection with a ‘Satisfactory’ - but that is not the case and to be honest I’m not sure whether that would have done us any favours.
“We now know how hard we have got to work to turn this school around and I’m determined to do it. But it is a bit like steering a large tanker - you can’t turn it around overnight.”
The report accepts Mr Wing had started to make changes to raise standards.
It reads: “The new headteacher has a determined, principled ambition for the school and has quickly established a strong, much-welcomed personal presence in the school and local community.
“However, there are deep-rooted long-term weaknesses in leadership and management that require significant action.
“Inspectors recognise the logistical difficulties caused by the rebuilding programme, but it is also clear that leadership weaknesses go back over a considerable period and across all aspects of the school’s work.”
The report picks up on the school’s ‘very high’ number of temporary and internal exclusions for poor behaviour.
But Mr Wing said that is down to his hardline approach to misbehaviour.
“When I first arrived here the students thought they could make inappropriate comments to staff and get away with it - we had masses of exclusions as a result, now we haven’t had any for two months,” he said.
Mr Wing admitted the report was a blow but said it was difficult to argue with the inspectors’ findings when the evidence for what was being said was so clear.
“The inspector kept showing me things and saying what do you think? What could I say? I couldn’t argue with what was being said because it is true.
“Time is often wasted when a school fails an inspection because staff go into denial. I haven’t done that. Schools that do best and come out of special measures the fastest are those that accept what is being said and immediately start to do something about it - they don’t sit around waiting for the report to come out.
“I immediately started to make changes to address the issues raised.”
Those steps including putting under-performing teachers on ‘capability measures’, which means they are being mentored by colleagues to help them improve.
However, Mr Wing warned those that fail to hit the standard could find themselves gone, pointing out procedures to remove inadequate teachers have been streamlined.
The school will now have half-termly monitoring to see how it is progressing.
Mr Wing admits it is daunting having that kind of pressure, but said it also helps as it means the school knows exactly how well it is doing.
He believes the inspector has given the school the best chance of success.
“He could have put us on notice to improve, which would have given us a year. The inspector recognises we can’t do it in a year so he hasn’t set us up to fail, he was harsh, but in the end I believe putting us into special measures is for the best. He kept talking about giving me leverage and a chance to improve and you can’t say fairer than that,” concluded Mr Wing.
The full report is not yet published but will be available via the Ofsted website - this story has been published after a strict embargo was broken elsewhere in the media.