High school on the up

A ONCE troubled Ipswich high school is continuing to improve.Ofsted inspectors have deemed Holywells High School, which only came out of special measures in March last year, as “improving and effective.

A ONCE troubled Ipswich high school is continuing to improve.

Ofsted inspectors have deemed Holywells High School, which only came out of special measures in March last year, as “improving and effective.”

The inspectors said it now provided its approximately 900 pupils with a satisfactory education.

Headteacher Ruth Everard said: “The overall grade of satisfactory is, for us at this stage, more than satisfactory.”

But she said that next time, she wants the Lindbergh Road school to be good in all areas.

The report has already placed some aspects of the school in the good category - such as the behaviour of its pupils, its curriculum and the way it works with others to promote its pupils' well-being.

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The report also said pupils enjoyed school, that parents were supportive and praised Mrs Everard's leadership.

She said: “I am very, very pleased but any good leader is supported by good people and I am very fortunate to work with staff who are highly skilled, highly professional and very passionate.”

Mrs Everard feels there is a good relationship between staff and students, that the school has a creative curriculum, that it understands how to manage young people and that there is a good working partnership between the school, parents and governors.

But the report deemed two areas inadequate - pupils' standards and attendance.

Pointing out that standards were low, the report said: “This is due in large part to weaknesses in students' literacy skills, which impacts heavily on their ability to do well in other subjects. This applies particularly to students in years ten and 11.”

The report also said a small number of students are habitually absent, that the level of unauthorised absence is too high and that subject leaders lack leadership and management skills.

Mrs Everard said: “The key things are literacy, attendance and consistency across all faculty areas.

“At the moment, we have a monthly literacy focus across the whole school. A recent focus has been on paragraphing. The biggest challenge is developing pupils from year nine to year 11.

"Our attendance is improving. Where we struggle is with a minority of youngsters who are persistently absent, often without any good reason. What it really needs is for a small minority of parents to ensure that their children are in school on time and attend regularly."

She said it was also important to develop student confidence.

Under a new government policy, Holywells High School was only told on November 4 that inspectors were visiting in five days' time.

Mrs Everard would have preferred the inspection to have been in six months' time so inspectors could have seen more of the improvements put in place since the school came out of special measures, pointing out that the school had only put in a bid for business and enterprise status that afternoon.

But she nevertheless preferred the new-style inspection, saying: “The time you are given gives less time to worry and fret and it's less disturbing to the everyday functioning of the school.

“The inspectors were more interested in talking to staff, pupils and parents than before.”