Former head criticises school’s ‘Highbury hubris’
Tom Sherrington says he was given a false picture before he took top job
17 February, 2017 — By Joe Cooper
Tom Sherrington resigned from Highbury Grove shortly before the publication of a recent Ofsted report
HIGHBURY Grove’s former headteacher claims he was given an exaggerated picture of the school’s success when he was interviewed for the top job.
Tom Sherrington said he was given the impression the school was on its way to being “world class”, which he has now dismissed as “Highbury Hubris”. The school, in fact, had “so many issues to address” when he joined in 2014, Mr Sherrington said.
In a blog post which has since been deleted, Mr Sherrington likened taking the job to “being sold an Aston Martin only to discover that the engine doesn’t work properly and the race is twice as long”.
On his popular website, Mr Sherrington blasted a recent Ofsted report that branded Highbury Grove “Inadequate”. He said it gave a “massively distorted” picture of the school, with many descriptions “simply wrong”.
Addressing the report for the first time since he left the school last month, Mr Sherrington posted a strong rebuttal, and answered his critics by saying: “I did my best. I think I made a difference; the tanker was turning; our ideas were starting to work.”
He resigned from the school shortly before the publication of the education watchdog’s report, which put Highbury Grove in the lowest category and means it will be converted to an academy.
In a post titled “Perspective”, Mr Sherrington said he was “deeply sorry that the school is in the position that it is”.
But he added: “For now, all I would ask is that people read the inspection report understanding that lots of people regard it as giving a massively distorted picture of the school; exaggerating weakness, underplaying so many of its great strengths and containing several descriptions of school practices that are simply wrong. It would be a mistake to read it as a straight-forward factual account of the school.”
Mr Sherrington also described an assembly on the day of the Ofsted assessment in which a pupil recited a “word perfect” If by Rudyard Kipling, but that inspectors missed it as they were having a meeting.
“[This] sums up the whole process for me,” Mr Sherrington wrote.
“They just didn’t capture the spirit of the school or get a proper measure of the standards being reached across the school or the distance we’ve travelled.”
The school was rated “Outstanding” in 2010, but Mr Sherrington said that by the time he took over in 2014 its performance had “dropped massively”.
“Teaching, the curriculum, assessment and behaviour are all miles better than they were in 2014,” Mr Sherrington said, adding that a comparison with the 2010 report was pointless as it was “based on entirely different measures and standards”.
He admitted that issues raised about bullying and bad behaviour in the report rang true, but said the report failed to take into account the social backgrounds of pupils.
Highbury Fields has a high proportion of pupils who receive free school meals or are looked after by the local authority compared to the national average.