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Damning Ofsted report sparks name change for Islington school

Now known as Beacon High, Holloway School hopes strategy will turn its fortunes around

14 June, 2019 — By Calum Fraser

Executive headteacher Jo Dibb with newly named Beacon High head, Alan Streeter

A SCHOOL has changed its name after more than 60 years as a comprehensive.

Holloway School is now known as Beacon High, after an official launch ceremony yesterday (Thursday), as part of a strategy to turn the school’s fortunes around following a category three “requires improvement” Ofsted report in 2017.

But executive headteacher Jo Dibb has argued that this is more than just a rebranding exercise.

She said: “You can call it rebranding, but that is a pejorative term. But rebranding at its best is a root-and-branch change. It is not superficial. It is about how do we project ourselves from the inside out.”

Ms Dibb, former headteacher at Outstanding-rated all-girls secondary school Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (EGA), was parachuted in to take control of Holloway School last year.

Holloway became part of a new group of schools that include EGA, Copenhagen Primary and Victoria Primary, called the Islington Futures Federation.

A school was first built on the site in 1907 called Camden School for Boys. This became Holloway County Grammar in 1930 before changing to the comprehensive Holloway School in 1955.

If a local authority-maintained school re­ceives the lowest category, “inadequate”, it is forced to become an academy by law. If, like Holloway School, it receives category three it is monitored by the Department for Education with an eye to changing it into an academy if it does not improve. An Ofsted inspection published last month found that the teaching is “not strong enough, especially at Key Stage 3.”

The report added: “Sometimes, the work pupils are given is not challenging and inspiring, and pupils do not finish their work.”

It also criticised pupils’ punctuality. But “leadership and management” had improved to a “good” category.

The report said: “The new headteacher and governing body, well supported by senior and middle leaders, are taking decisive action to improve the school.”

Ms Dibb added: “In the past, students didn’t always believe in themselves. What has changed now is about nurturing that confidence and self-belief that they can achieve as highly as anyone else in the country. We celebrate their strengths and successes.”

The governing body decided to join the Islington Federation instead of becoming an academy after the category three Ofsted inspection grade was given.

The DfE prefers struggling schools to be part of a “multi-academy trust”, a chain of schools managed by a trust with a chief executive.

Alan Streeter, Beacon High’s headteacher, said: “We are different to multi-academy trusts in the sense that it is four independently minded schools and the identities of those schools are different.

“What you tend to get with a large multi-academy trust is a notion of what schools should be from top down, imposed on the school.”

Mr Streeter added that it was a “long process” deciding the new name for the school, with meetings, consultations with the pupils and “focus groups” with parents.

He said: “It was a whole community coming up with that name, it wasn’t just somebody plucking it out of the air.”

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