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Parents tell of frustration as school closure looms

Low pupils numbers at Clerkenwell Parochial Primary has been linked to ‘inadequate’ rating in Ofsted report

08 January, 2021 — By Helen Chapman

Clerkenwell Parochial primary school

PARENTS of a school due to be closed down this year have criticised its leadership, writes Helen Chapman.
Clerkenwell Parochial Primary in Amwell Street has faced turbulent times in recent years after a visit from Ofsted in 2016 led to an “inadequate” rating.

The school was recommended to make improvements in its approach to safeguarding and headteacher Amanda Szewczyk-Radley took over shortly after.

Ofsted says a follow-up check that may have reassured parents was not held due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Low pupil numbers have been blamed for its proposed closure, but a shortage of children has been linked to the Ofsted report and the school’s response, parents said.

Sarah Browne, whose children have now left, said: “I was quite shocked that the school was actually closing, although I was thinking that is the way that they’re going to have to go because so many children had left.

“It was a shame for them to see it change so rapidly. I liked the tradition of the school and I wanted all my children to have the same experience, and unfortunately they didn’t.”

She added: “The PTA dwindled down to nobody because traditionally it was a lot of parents who had been there for years. The parent-governors left and it disappeared. It was a highly respected school and everybody wanted to go there, but now, nobody wants to even hear the name.”

The school received just three applications for a place in reception this year, and with 117 pupils on the roll it is currently operating at around half of its capacity of 240.

The Church of England school was converted into an academy and is now run by the London Diocesan Board for Schools.

One parent, who did not want to be named because their child is still at the school, said its leadership did not properly address parents’ concerns.

“We were concerned about the school and it was hard to get answers,” they said.

“We wanted to speak with the headteacher about concerns but it was hard to get hold of her. I liked the ethos of the school. It seemed quite a happy place. Otherwise I wouldn’t have chosen it, but it just slowly went downhill.”

Christopher Trundle from the Local Academy Committee said: “Things were certainly very difficult indeed in the aftermath of the Ofsted inspection, and many families were, quite reasonably, upset with the school and felt let down. Things had to change. To transform a school and its culture takes time – it cannot happen overnight – and considerable effort. The appointment of new leadership and staff were important first steps.”

Ms Szewczyk-Radley said: “On starting at the school it was clear that there was considerable work to do to put things right. We have worked tirelessly to address historic issues: we developed new policies on behaviour, reorganised the curriculum and timetables, improved the SEND provision and inclusion, and invited the local authority to come and train the staff in new approaches.”

She added: “Following two reviews from Islington we were praised for our work: ‘A culture of respect embedded in the school environment, modelled by leadership, reinforced by staff and influencing pupils across the school’ was a strength. Further, ‘Huge efforts made by all staff to consistently implement trauma-informed practices across the school to support all pupils to feel safe and increased opportunities for staff, pupils and parents to influence practice and contribute to decisions’.”


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