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‘Not recommended’ parents verdict on Sir Harry Smith Community College

Ofsted inspections ‘are a point-in-time judgement’

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Sir Harry Smith Community College is facing a crisis of confidence after only 16 per cent of parents felt able to ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ that the school makes sure pupils are well behaved. But most problematic of all for the school is when parents were asked if they would recommend Sir Harry Smith, Whittlesey, to other parents; 29 per cent said, ‘yes’ with 71 per cent replying ‘no’.

58 per cent of parents replied ‘disagree’ or ‘strongly disagree’ when asked if they felt the school had dealt with issues properly when they had been raised.

367 parents replied to the survey, but the survey does not say if they have more than one child on the school roll of 1,111.

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Only 45 per cent of parents answered ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ to a question about whether their child was happy at this school, and only 33 per cent replied ‘agree’ or ‘strongly’ agree when asked if the school makes them aware of what their children will learn during the year.

Of 88 responses to a question whether the school had supported parents of those children with SEND, only 15 per cent replied ‘agree’ ‘strongly agree’.

The results of the survey were considered by Ofsted inspectors during a 2-day inspection of the Whittlesey school on February 28 and 29. Their report has just been released.

Ofsted concluded “there has been no change to this school’s overall judgement of good as a result of this ungraded (section 8) inspection.

“However, the evidence gathered suggests that the inspection grade might not be as high if a graded (section 5) inspection were carried out now. The school’s next inspection will be a graded inspection”.

Behaviour and teaching methods figure prominently in the Ofsted report, with the inspectors noting that “many pupils endure a diet of temporary and substitute teachers.

“Here, sometimes, aspiration and expectation is low. Pupils and parents are aggrieved as they see at times a lack of learning.

“This causes disillusion about school for some, including for some sixth-form students”.

From Ofsted website

From Ofsted website

The inspection team was led by Dave Gibson, with Jennifer Brassington and Catherine Wilson.

Their report agreed that the vast majority of pupils are polite and engaging, focus on their work and try to complete it to the best of their ability.

“However, learning is regularly disrupted by the behaviour of others,” says their report.

“Pupils feel safe, although around school the behaviour of some is overly boisterous.

“Although pupils say that it has recently improved, a few continue to move around in a way that is not always considerate of others. Pupils and parents are frustrated about how the school communicates with them.

“When systems change it is not clear how and why. This makes it difficult for pupils to conform and parents to support the school.”

The report says the school has recently changed its approach to managing behaviour and has “high expectations”.

However, pupils do not understand the changes.

Principal Dawn White and notice of parents/carers meeting to discuss the Ofsted report

Principal Dawn White and notice of parents/carers meeting to discuss the Ofsted report

“They are confused about what values they should be demonstrating,” says Ofsted. “Some staff are unclear about what they should be doing and why. The agreed protocols to manage behaviour are not applied consistently.

“Pupils are not routinely challenged when they fail to meet the expectations set.

“Parents are highly vocal about what they perceive as embedded poor behaviour in the school.”

On the bright side Osted says the school understands the importance of pupils attending school regularly and monitors pupils’ attendance and works closely with families to overcome the underlying issues.

“As a result, the overall levels of attendance are beginning to improve,” says the report.

“The careers curriculum is well planned. Pupils access a range of activities, organisations and institutions that give them key information. This helps pupils make informed choices about their next steps.

“As a consequence of the changes the school has made, a small number of staff feel workload is an issue. However, the majority of staff feel their workload is well managed by the school.”

The inspectors agree the school has thought carefully about how to inspire pupils, with a well-planned and ambitious programme of learning.

“The school has ensured that the curriculum reflects the diversity of modern life,” says the report. “Pupils explain how they celebrate difference. The school has planned so all pupils have access to the curriculum without limitation. This includes those pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND).

“The majority of teaching is well delivered. In more effective lessons, teachers routinely revisit prior learning. They also teach subject specific vocabulary clearly and explicitly.”

Originally known as The Sir Harry Smith Secondary School and built to accommodate 600 students, the doors first opened to an intake of 360 students in September 1953

Originally known as The Sir Harry Smith Secondary School and built to accommodate 600 students, the doors first opened to an intake of 360 students in September 1953

But the inspectors acknowledge that “too often teachers do not consistently arrange learning activities that enable pupils to learn the knowledge they need.

“In such instances, teaching focuses on ensuring pupils complete tasks rather than learning the curriculum.

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“As a result, pupils do not always learn about subjects in depth.”

The report says teachers provide “timely support” when needed but too often teachers use inexact assessment methods. This results in teachers not realising when pupils forget or misunderstand something.

“When this happens, teachers do not provide the support these pupils need so they fall behind.

“The provision for pupils with SEND suffers from the same inconsistencies all other pupils experience”.

Looking in on sixth form provision, Osted says the provision students is strong and teachers display expect subject knowledge and students learn well.

Under the heading ‘what does the school need to do to improve’, the inspectors says some pupils fall behind because some teachers do not arrange effective learning activities that enable pupils to learn the curriculum well enough.

“The school should ensure that teachers deliver effective learning activities across the curriculum that ensures pupils achieve well,” says the report. “Some teachers do not routinely check what pupils know and understand.

“As a result, teachers do not realise when pupils have forgotten or misunderstand what they have been taught and fall behind. The school should ensure that all teachers are trained and routinely check pupils’ understanding, using this information to address gaps and misconceptions.”

The report also says staff do not have a shared understanding of the school’s expectations of behaviour and do not deal with unacceptable behaviour consistently well.

“As a result, a small, yet significant number of pupils fail to meet the school’s expectations,” says Ofsted. “The school must ensure that all staff understand the school’s expectations and use the behaviour policy consistently when dealing with unacceptable behaviour.”

About Ofsted

Ofsted says when they have judged a school to be good, they will then normally go into the school about once every four years to confirm that the school remains good. This is called an ungraded inspection, and it is carried out under section 8 of the Education Act 2005.

Ofsted does not give graded judgements on an ungraded inspection.

However, if they find evidence that a school would now receive a higher or lower grade, then the next inspection will be a graded inspection, which is carried out under section 5 of the Act.

Usually this is within one to two years of the date of the ungraded inspection.

“If we have serious concerns about safeguarding, behaviour or the quality of education, we will deem the ungraded inspection a graded inspection immediately,” says Ofsted.

“This is the second ungraded inspection since we judged the school to be good in November 2014”

About Sir Harry Smith Community College

The school is part of Aspire Learning Trust. The school is expanding. It will increase up to an annual intake of 240 pupils in September 2024.

The school currently uses one registered and six unregistered alternative providers. The school runs a specially resourced SEND provision for up to 14 pupils with cognitive learning difficulties.

The school meets the requirements of the provider access legislation, which requires schools to provide pupils in Years 8 to 13 with information and engagement about approved technical education qualifications and apprenticeships.

Inspections are a point-in-time judgement about the quality of a school’s education provision.

This was the first routine inspection the school received since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Inspectors discussed the impact of the pandemic with the school and have taken that into account in their evaluation of the school.

Inspectors held meetings with leaders, including the principal, deputy principal, and special educational needs coordinator. The lead inspector also met with representatives of the board of trustees and local governing body, including the respective chairs, the chief executive officer, and the school improvement partner.

Inspectors carried out deep dives in these subjects: English, mathematics, drama, geography, and art. For each deep dive, inspectors discussed the curriculum with leaders, visited a sample of lessons, spoke to staff, spoke to some pupils about their learning and looked at samples of pupils’ work. Inspectors looked at examples of pupils’ work and curriculum documents in some other subjects.

Inspectors reviewed documents about the school’s support for pupils with SEND.

Inspectors reviewed the 364 responses and 281 free-text responses submitted to the online survey, Ofsted Parent View. The lead inspector also spoke directly with two parents.

To gather pupils’ views, inspectors spent time speaking to pupils. The lead inspector considered a letter delivered by a pupil. There were no responses to the pupil survey. Inspectors spoke with several staff throughout the inspection.

There were no responses to the staff survey.

The principal of this school is Dawn White.

This school is part of Aspire Learning Trust, which means other people in the trust also have responsibility for running the school.

The trust is run by the chief executive officer, Duncan Ramsey, and overseen by a board of trustees, chaired by Zoe Botterill.

 

 

 

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