‘School has been let down’ by Government – Worle Community School governors
PUBLISHED: 09:00 21 June 2016
Governors at a school judged ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted say they asked for help from the Government months before its inspection and feel ‘let down’ by a lack of response.
The Mercury has reported how Worle Community School was visited by Ofsted in April and ordered into special measures after inspectors criticised the quality of Worle’s teaching and said pupils ‘did not feel safe’ in some areas of the school.
But the former chair of governors David Elliott – who resigned in May over a personal conflict of interest – this week told the Mercury governors knew things had to change in September 2015 and began to turn plans into action.
Mr Elliott says despite approaches to Weston MP John Penrose and the Department for Education, they were left waiting for help which never came.
He also said the governors first realised there was a problem when 43 per cent of pupils achieved five A* to Cs, including English and maths in the GCSEs, the lowest results in five years.
They worked with then-headteacher Peter Binding to begin the process of signing up to a multi-academy trust for extra support.
Mr Elliott said: “In September to December, we started meeting with prospective trusts, including Priory Community School and Weston College. On January 18 the governing body agreed to join one of the trusts.”
The governors met a schools academy broker and were told it would take three weeks for the Department for Education (DfE) to ratify the decision. But, according to Mr Elliott, this never happened.
Mr Elliott said: “At the end of January, we were led to believe there would be three weeks for a decision. We already had a letter from a trust. We just needed the DfE to give the rubber stamp.
“There were weekly phone calls to the DfE, and we finally got hold of the schools minister, Sir David Carter. We arranged for him to come down on April 21 – two days before the visit we got from Ofsted.
“We had a one-day safeguarding visit from Ofsted. And then it went into a full inspection.
“Following that I was directed to suspend the headteacher.”
Before the inspection, the governors also met Mr Penrose, who last week described the Ofsted report as being ‘as bad as it gets’.
Mr Elliott said: “He said ‘I will do everything I can’. He did nothing, so for him to say it is ‘as bad as it gets’ is shocking.
“The governing body asked the DfE and Mr Penrose for help, and the help didn’t come, and the people suffering are the children.
“I think the school has been let down. The key stakeholders are children, who now feel they are at a rubbish and unsafe school.”
Mr Penrose told the Mercury he met with the governors about turning the school around, and expressed his support to Sir David, as the governors requested.
Mr Penrose said the governors did not ask for anything more.
He said: “I followed up a few weeks later as I was concerned about the headteacher’s departure, but still got no reply. Shortly after that, the Ofsted inspection report was published saying the governors had ‘failed to challenge the school’s leadership effectively’.”
Mr Elliott says although he has since learned the Ofsted visit was triggered by complaints from parents, he is unaware of the nature of the complaints, as these were never sent to the school.
He says earlier complaints were investigated by North Somerset Council and shown to be unfounded.
Priory Community School principal Neville Coles is now fronting efforts to improve the school this term.
Mr Elliott said: “The Priory multi-academy under Mr Coles’ leadership is a very exciting prospect for Worle.”
An interim executive board has been put in place to replace the governors, and four of Worle’s governing body remain on the new board.
Mr Elliott said: “Really good governors are staying on, four of them, and some of them have been governors for 25 years.”