Mas­sive in­flux of pupils plunges school into cri­sis

Ex­clu­sive

Kentish Gazette Canterbury & District - - Ticketless Parking - By Gerry War­ren gwar­ren@thek­m­group.co.uk @Ger­ry_war­ren

A damn­ing Of­sted re­port re­veals a city pri­mary school has been plunged into cri­sis fol­low­ing an “un­prece­dented” in­flux of chil­dren from a de­prived Lon­don bor­ough.

The gov­ern­ment watch­dog says Pil­grims’ Way con­tin­ues to face “con­sid­er­able tur­bu­lence” fol­low­ing the in­take of pupils from fam­i­lies re­lo­cated to the former Howe Bar­racks site by Red­bridge coun­cil.

Fol­low­ing an in­spec­tion in Septem­ber, the school has been found to have se­ri­ous fail­ings in three key ar­eas and is be­ing ham­pered by a “re­lent­less” turnover of staff.

But in­spec­tors are not blam­ing head teacher Alice Witty, who they say works “tire­lessly” and whose ef­forts are “be­ing thwarted by cir­cum­stances be­yond her con­trol”.

Since last Septem­ber, the school has taken on ex­tra pupils who moved from Red­bridge when the Lon­don bor­ough out­bid Can­ter­bury City Coun­cil to snap up the former army homes. About 250 fam­i­lies were re­lo­cated and con­cerns were raised at the time about how lo­cal ser­vices would cope.

In the lat­est Of­sted re­port, lead in­spec­tor Si­mon Hughes write: “Lead­ers’ work to sup­port pupils’ tran­si­tion to their new school has meant that other as­pects of the school’s work have not re­ceived enough at­ten­tion.

“Con­se­quently, stand- ards of teach­ing have de­clined.

“The reg­u­lar ar­rival of new pupils ham­pers teach­ers’ cre­ation and use of log­i­cal se­quences of work. Too of­ten they have to start again for those join­ing the class. In­evitably, this leads to rep­e­ti­tion, slow­ing of learn­ing and bore­dom for other pupils.”

The Of­sted re­port on Pil­grims’ Way, re­leased on Tues­day, rates lead­er­ship and man­age­ment, qual­ity of teach­ing and learn­ing and pupil out­comes as “in­ad­e­quate”, while per­sonal devel­op­ment and be­hav­iour, and early years pro­vi­sion both re­quire im­prove­ment.

Fol­low­ing the pre­vi­ous in­spec­tion in Novem­ber last year, no area of the school was deemed to be ‘in­ad­e­quate’, with in­spec­tors prais­ing its “im­pres­sive” work in help­ing the new fam­i­lies set­tle in quickly.

In­spec­tors have now given the school an over­all rat­ing of ‘re­quir­ing im­prove­ment’. They are rec­om­mend­ing that staffing needs sta­bil­is­ing, teach­ing skills up­graded, pupil ab­sence re­duced and the school lead­er­ship strength­ened.

Dur­ing their visit on Septem­ber 13 and 14, they found a school strug­gling to man­age, ag­gra­vated by the in­flux of chil­dren from out­side the dis­trict.

The pro­por­tion of the school’s 323 chil­dren for whom English is a sec­ond lan­guage is now in the top 40% in the coun­try.

The re­port adds: “The head teacher is too of­ten dis­tracted from strate­gic lead­er­ship ac­tiv­i­ties due to is­sues emerg­ing in the com­mu­nity. She is also con­stantly in­volved in try­ing to re­cruit good staff or im­prov- ing the ef­fec­tive­ness of ex­ist­ing team mem­bers.

“The turnover of staff makes it very dif­fi­cult for nec­es­sary im­prove­ments to be sus­tained over time.”

In­spec­tors also rate the stan­dard of teach­ing as “weak”, with some of their sub­ject knowl­edge, es­pe­cially maths, re­quir­ing im­prove­ment.

“There is lit­tle that ex­cites or in­spires pupils. As a re­sult, many drift off task and be­come rest­less.”

But in­spec­tors say staff care for their pupils “ad­mirably” and the school lead­ers have a clear view of the weak­nesses which need ad­dress­ing.

They note that mea­sures taken, in­clud­ing ad­di­tional lead­er­ship sup­port, is beginning to have a pos­i­tive im­pact in early years and cur­ricu­lum plan­ning.

The school is part of the Vil­lage Academy Trust and now an ad­vi­sory head teacher has been brought in to help.

Pil­grims’ Way Nurs­ery and Pri­mary school

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