Saturday, November 26, 2016

Whitehaven Academy

I was a governor of Whitehaven School, as it was at the time I joined the governing body, for a period of about six years ending twenty-two months ago, in January 2015.

Throughout the time I was a governor the staff and senior leadership team were working hard to face enormous challenges, such as the fact that the buildings were old and in great need of new investment. Ofsted reports and inspections over the period that I was a governor identified a series of challenges though they also recognised the work staff and in particular the then head teacher, Lynette Norris who was in post for the majority of my time as a governor, were doing to improve the school.
Ofsted reports such as this one from 2013 recorded those efforts and made comments like this:

"The school’s leaders and managers, along with the governing body, are very determined to bring about rapid improvements and this is proving very successful.

The monitoring of the progress students make is very rigorous and accurate. This has resulted in a large rise in achievement. Many more students are making progress in line with that found nationally."

That inspection also found that there was much more which needed to be done and the school leadership would have been the first to agree this. All the steps which were taken over the eighteen months between that report and the end of my time on the governing body by the head, the SLT and the governors were intended to deliver those improvements.

At the time the school moved over to Academy status it was indeed recognised, as was mentioned in a statement released yesterday on the school website here, by the Bright Tribe chain who are the Academy's sponsors, that addressing the problems of the school would be a five-year challenge which would require significant investment.

I cannot speak for what has been happening in the school since I stepped down as a governor nearly two years ago, but I can say that in the period immediately after the transition to Whitehaven Academy, Bright Tribe did indeed put significant amounts of money into the school. I have no reason to doubt their statement that they have put £400,000 of investment into Whitehaven Academy and are planning a further £500,000 of investment over the next twelve months.

Everyone who is or has been associated with the school will be incredibly disappointed with the outcome of the most recent inspection, in October 2016, the report of which was also published yesterday and can be found here.

The Ofsted report notes that at the time of their October inspection the new headteacher, Mr W Turner, had only been in post for six weeks. The report says that

"he has worked tirelessly and has already brought about some positive improvements. He has introduced new behaviour management systems, along with intensive, robust monitoring of the school’s work and evaluation of its quality. He has already formed a strong picture of teaching across the school and knows where it needs to improve. The sponsor has had success in supporting the headteacher to raise attendance, which has seen a significant improvement this year to date.

Staff say that the headteacher is already making a difference and that morale has improved under his leadership. New performance management arrangements for staff are rigorous. The headteacher is making strenuous efforts to engage with parents and the local community, and a number of parents expressed confidence in his leadership. Several parents commented on the increased momentum towards improvement in the current term."

I am sure everyone in the local community will wish Mr Turner, the staff, and all those who have the task of supporting the school every success in turning round the issues found by the inspection.

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