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A recipe for success

PUBLISHED: 02:02 21 November 2001 | UPDATED: 10:53 03 March 2010

THE only way is up at Holywells High School! Teachers, pupils and parents are all working together to put the problems of the past firmly behind them.

Inspectors have already been impressed with the achievements so far, and cabinet minister Robin Cook has just paid a visit to meet members of the new school council.

THE only way is up at Holywells High School! Teachers, pupils and parents are all working together to put the problems of the past firmly behind them.

Inspectors have already been impressed with the achievements so far, and cabinet minister Robin Cook has just paid a visit to meet members of the new school council. Education reporter JUDY RIMMER and photographer SIMON PARKER find out how Holywells is building for the future.

A LETTER from a Neighbourhood Watch group gave a big boost to Holywells High School acting headteacher Karen Grimes.

"They wrote to say they had noticed the improved behaviour of pupils leaving school and walking home at the end of the day – and they felt it was due to our efforts," said Mrs Grimes, who took over at the helm of the school in Lindbergh Road at the start of term.

"I was very pleased – it's good to have people writing in to say something positive!"

Improving pupil behaviour is one of the key tasks included in the action plan for the troubled school, which is currently under Government special measures.

A new learning support unit has opened this term in part of the Priory Building – the former Priory Heath primary school – with the aim of tackling both behaviour problems and other learning difficulties.

Other important changes are the introduction of a new "mini-school" structure, with upper, lower and middle schools, and the introduction of new hi-tech equipment.

There are still more changes which need to be made, but, when inspectors paid a monitoring visit earlier this term, they were clearly impressed by the progress so far.

"The inspectors looked closely at our action plan and described it as a successful strategy for improvement," said Mrs Grimes.

"They felt there had been some very important advances so far and said the climate of the school had changed – they noticed an improvement in pupil behaviour and they commented on the calm atmosphere."

Mrs Grimes said inspectors had told her they felt staff were enthusiastic, positive and fully committed to the changes and improvements which had been made.

"They concluded the school had turned the corner."

There's no doubt that the 950-pupil school in Lindbergh Road, Ipswich, has had some tough times this year, with a whole string of problems and setbacks.

First a crippling staff shortage meant pupils had to be sent home at morning break, attracting a blaze of unwanted national publicity. Then came the announcement of special measures after a damning Ofsted inspection report.

But all that is hopefully now in the past. What teachers, pupils, parents and governors want to work on is the future.

Despite all the troubles, pupils worked hard to gain improved GCSE results this summer, and now the school is determined to build on that success. There's also reason to be proud of Holywells' sporting achievements, with a whole string of victories in team games.

The school now has a full staff, and the team is due to be strengthened further in January, with three new teachers joining. One will be a replacement for a teacher who is leaving, but two will be additional members of staff.

Holywells has also joined forces with the YMCA in Bury St Edmunds to appoint a pastoral care worker, Michelle Richardson. She is currently training for her new role and will join the school in January.

"Michelle will be an excellent addition to the staff," said Mrs Grimes. "Her role will be to support pupils in a variety of ways.

"She will be involved in setting up a breakfast club, and we also want to introduce more after-school and lunchtime activities."

Chairman of governors, the Rev Chris Jowett, said there was still more to do, but he was feeling increasingly confident about the future.

"As far as I am concerned, we have made a very good start and lots of things are going very positively," he commented.

"I am very pleased with the support we are getting from parents. We have 20 parents on a focus group and they meet regularly."

Deputy chairman David Rowley said there was the best-ever turnout at the annual meeting of parents and governors.

"Parents have been telling me their children are coming home saying they enjoyed school today and are looking forward to going again the next day – that is good to hear!"

WEBLINK

www.holywells.org.uk

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