Three schools put in special measures

A TEACHING union leader has called for ailing schools to be given more support and increased resources after three north Essex secondary schools were put into special measures.

By Juliette Maxam

A TEACHING union leader has called for ailing schools to be given more support and increased resources after three north Essex secondary schools were put into special measures.

Thomas Lord Audley and Sir Charles Lucas schools in Colchester, and St Peter's College, Chelmsford, have all been heavily criticised by Ofsted inspectors following new-style lightning-strike inspections earlier this term.

Standards of teaching and learning and management at all three schools have been criticised and the each one of them has been given the lowest mark - grade 4, inadequate - for overall effectiveness of the school.

But this weekend Essex National Union of Teachers representative Jerry Glazier said labelling schools as “in special measures” makes it difficult for them to improve.

“It's a dangerous and divisive accolade and often makes it extremely difficult for improvements to be made,” he said.

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“These schools need proper support from the local education authority and decent increased resources. Those are very difficult to get.”

All the schools are in challenging areas, with similar socio-economic factors and similar behavioural problems which are greater than schools in other areas, he said.

He said schools should have resources that reflect their circumstances rather than receiving money per pupil.

“It's a Catch 22 situation. You undermine the reputation of a school by giving it a label. That leads to a decline in pupil numbers and you get into a vicious circle.”

At Thomas Lord Audley school, inspectors said examination results in some subjects, including English are “exceptionally low and among the poorest in the country”.

The school has failed to meet the targets required by its specialist language college status and standards in languages are “too low”.

“The school is not equipping pupils with the basic skills in literacy and numeracy that they need for future life and the world of work,” said inspectors.

Further problems highlighted include the school's budget, which is in the red and under pressure due to falling pupil numbers, and “significant problems” with the recruitment and retention of teachers.

Inspectors accused Sir Charles Lucas school of failing to give pupils an acceptable standard of education. They said standards are too low and that pupils' progress and the quality of teaching and learning were inadequate.

They were critical of the management of bad behaviour in a “significant minority” of pupils, who have a “wilful disregard for their teachers”.

St Peter's College replaced Rainsford High School in September 2003, becoming a Church of England comprehensive. Inspectors recognised the new college had a troubled start, with half the staff leaving in September 2004 and behavioural problems before the current headteacher, Simon Carpenter, took over in December 2004.

Mr Carpenter's first two terms as head were praised by inspectors, but they were still critical of leadership and management as improvements have not been fast enough at the school. They also criticised the quality of teaching and learning and standards.

No-one from Sir Charles Lucas and St Peter's College could be contacted at the weekend. Thomas Lord Audley school is expected to make a formal statement tomorrow .

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