Stowmarket High School leaders say education standards are improving as it prepares to take on hundreds of extra students

Stowmarket High School

Stowmarket High School - Credit: Archant

Leaders at a Suffolk high school have promised parents that standards are improving as they prepare to take on around an extra 400 students next year.

Stowmarket High School

Stowmarket High School - Credit: Archant

Stowmarket High School was given a “requires improvement” grade by Ofsted last year – a mark which was disputed by the headteacher Keith Penn.

Some parents of students going to nearby middle schools have been frustrated and angry that the three-tier education system is being scrapped in favour of a two-tier model.

All but one of the four middle schools in the area, which will close next summer, have “good” Ofsted marks, while the two high schools, Stowmarket and Stowupland both have “requires improvement” marks.

A group, set up by parents and teachers, has even promoted plans to build a free school to drive up standards in the area.

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However, in two follow-up mini Ofsted inspections, Stowmarket High, has been praised for improving standards, something deputy head Karl Rourke-Beasley says is continuing.

He said: “Schools will always question certain parts of Ofsted reports but the need to improve teaching and learning was taken on the chin and we have made great strides to try and improve that.

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“We are working with parents to try and get students to the level they should be; we need to say there was good teaching and learning before the Ofsted inspection but it was not consistent enough.”

Fears that teachers at the school will not be prepared to deal with children as young as 11, coming from the middle schools next September, should be allayed, Mr Rourke-Beasley added.

“I think there will be a great deal of experienced teachers for Year 7 and 8, I really do not think parents have a lot to fear from the teaching and learning; our pastoral system is first-rate. We have employed people from middle schools who will be working here who have experience of teaching Year 7 and 8.”

He said although there would be “challenges”, the school was ready to start teaching students all the way through – from 11-18 years of age.

To add to that extra pressure, the school is expecting Ofsted inspectors to make another unannounced visit in the next year.

Mr Rourke-Beasley said: “We want to be an outstanding school but we have to be realistic about how we get to that and what we do in terms of changes which are manageable and sustainable.”

Last month it was announced that Mr Penn would be stepping down as headteacher next April in a move which the school has said is unconnected with the major changes.

Assistant headteacher Alistair Ewan said senior members of staff had visited middle schools to see what resources could be sent to them when they close.

Mr Ewan said: “It’s a good point for someone to come in, it’s a good time for someone – it’s the start of a new phase for the school, for the parents and pupils – they would be able to set their mark on it.

“There will not be a separate building for Year 7, we want them to integrate and mix with the sixth form. It will allow them to aspire to what they are doing and what they can do. We like the fact that it’s a community and that we are not separating people out.”

Stowmarket High School has 750 students, including 201 in the sixth form.

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