School turns itself around

JUST two and a half years ago Handford Hall primary school in Ipswich was in trouble. Branded by Ofsted inspectors as having 'serious weaknesses' the school had lost its headteacher and its future was in doubt.

JUST two and a half years ago Handford Hall primary school in Ipswich was in trouble.

Branded by Ofsted inspectors as having 'serious weaknesses' the school had lost its headteacher and its future was in doubt.

But today the school is looking forward to a bright future. It has a new leader, a new ethos and a number of new developments in the pipeline.

I met headteacher John Trotter to discover how things have been turned around and what plans the school has for the future.

IN what can only be described as a remarkable turnaround this year Handford Hall primary celebrated its best ever SATS results.

This year 97 per cent of key stage 2 students achieved level 4 in English, in 2003 it was just 47pc. Results in maths, reading, science and writing all showed similar leaps in numbers of students doing well.

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Headteacher John Trotter, who took up his post in September 2002, explained how the school has managed to turn the tables.

He said: "The staff was demoralised the headteacher had left and the school was in 'serious weaknesses'.

"The demoralising affect of that on a school is awful and the whole school community is affected but we have had two years hard work.

"The staff and governors have been brilliant and in March Ofsted said we are out of 'serious weaknesses' morale is higher and achievement is up."

With 250 pupils speaking more than 20 languages the school is unique in Suffolk in receiving an ethnic minority achievement grant often associated with inner city schools.

More than 30pc of students receive free school meals and 62pc have an ethnic minority background.

Mr Trotter said: "It's my strong belief that children in deprived areas should have the same aspirations as other children.

"We interviewed parents to get their views and we interviewed the children to find out how effective the teaching was. It is important to engage parents with the school and engage parents with their children's progress."

A programme of investment has helped bring the school back from the troubles and lift morale.

Mr Trotter said one of the first things he found needing improvement was ICT provision.

He said: "We put in a new ICT suite, which cost £12,000. It was important the children benefited at the time so we took out a loan with the Local Education Authority to get it."

Built in the 1970s the school burnt down in 1982 and after it was rebuilt it has been left largely untouched.

A £126,000 re-development of the school's internal atrium has brought to the school a valuable new conference room and a new food technology room.

Mr Trotter said: "The interior of the school was run down and never had been refurbished. It had been neglected and it was depressing.

"Morale is linked to the environment people are in so it was a priority to do something."

Next year plans include redeveloping part of the school's playground to include a pond and outside classroom.

Changes to the curriculum have also improved achievement among pupils.

Described as a multiple-intelligence school the children are regularly given certificates for achievement.

Based on the ways in which children are intelligent rather then teaching them how to pass exams the curriculum includes a strong emphasis on philosophy and analysis.

Mr Trotter said: "The multiple-intelligence idea was developed in the 1980s in America as a reaction to testing in the states. It builds self esteem and teaches them they can achieve as well as anyone else."

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