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Inspectors’ damning verdict on Highbury Grove school

Rated ‘outstanding’ five years ago, Highbury Grove is now ‘inadequate’, with bullying common

10 February, 2017 — By Joe Cooper

Highbury Grove School

AN Ofsted report has seen Highbury Grove School branded “inadequate” – just five years after it was deemed to be “outstanding”.

The report, published online on Wednesday, paints a picture of a school where bullying and poor attendance are common. Inspectors said pro­gress by all pupils in the past two years is “significantly below progress made by pupils nationally” and that teachers and governors had an “overgenerous view of the quality of education they are providing”.

Across four categories – effectiveness of leadership and management; quality of teaching, learning and assessment; personal development, behaviour and welfare; and outcome for pupils – the school was judged to be “inadequate”.

Only the sixth form was said to be “good”. Inspectors said they witnessed “conduct that put others at risk” during the two-day inspection in mid-December.

“Some pupils’ behaviour around the main school site puts other pupils at risk,” lead investigator Helen Matthews said.

“Incidents of bullying are frequent. Staff and pupils voiced concern about their own safety. The behaviour policy is implemented inconsistently across the school.”

Fixed term exclusions at the school were also judged to be too high. School leaders say this is due to increased expectations of pupils’ behaviour.

Former headteacher Tom Sherrington (above) gained a reputation as a disciplinarian when he joined the school in 2014, putting 300 children a day in detention at the start of term. Too many pupils were persistently absent and school leaders failed to improve attendance.

Inspectors said the quality of teaching across the school was “highly variable”. Teachers had low expectations of pupils and their work, which particularly affected grades in maths, they added.

“Disadvantaged pupils, particularly disadvantaged able and middle-ability pupils, made significantly less progress than did pupils nationally,” Ms Matthews said.

“For the most able disadvantaged pupils, their progress was in the bottom 10 per cent nationally.

“In 2016, Black Caribbean and Black African pupils made significantly less progress than pupils did nationally.”

In addition, other than in chemistry, the proportion of the most able pupils attaining the highest grades was below the national average in 2016. Governors at the school came in for criticism for not holding former headteacher Tom Sherrington to account.

“The governing body has not ensured that leaders’ actions have secured rapid enough school improvement,” the report said.

“At times, governors have challenged the headteacher’s decisions, but they have often been too accepting of information and evidence presented to them, particularly in relation to teachers’ salary and pay progression.”

The report noted that Islington Council had intervened after poor results in 2015.

“Local authority advisors have an accurate understanding of what needs to be done and have been carefully monitoring leaders’ actions to bring about change,” the report said.

Help was drafted in from the “outstanding” Central Foundation School for Boys and the council provided back office support to free up the headteacher to focus on key issues.

The report praised the amount of sport and outdoor activities available outside school, as well as the fact that all pupils learn to play an instrument.

For sixth formers, the report said they “achieve well and successfully go on to chosen university courses and apprenticeships”.


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