Copley plan ‘not fit for purpose’

PART OF the former headteacher’s plan to improve results at a Stalybridge school was deemed to be ‘not fit for purpose’ before her departure.

Former headteacher Sarah Gregory

Sarah Gregory’s removal from Copley Academy was confirmed after she was initially described as being ‘unavoidably absent.’

She has been replaced by Kenwyn Paddy who has been brought in from the Rodillian Trust in West Yorkshire as acting head as Great Academies look to turn the fortunes of the Huddersfield Road facility around.

He will be there until at least this time next year after a damning letter from Ofsted inspectors said part of what Mrs Gregory had implemented simply was not working – and would not work.

The note, written by Emma Gregory on May 7 after a visit in early April, was particularly scathing about the ‘improvement plan’ at Copley.

It says: “Leaders and managers are not taking effective action towards the removal of special measure.

“The trust’s statement of action is fit for purpose.

“The school’s improvement plan is not fit for purpose.

“Having considered all the evidence, I strongly recommend that the school does not seek to appoint newly qualified teachers.”

Copley Academy was deemed ‘inadequate’ after a full Ofsted inspection on October 9 and 10 last year.

Inspector Philip Wood highlighted a number of problem areas, notably that, ‘leaders have failed to address the areas for improvement highlighted in the previous inspection report.

‘Governors and trustees have provided insufficient challenge to halt the school’s decline.’

The damning list added: “Over the past three years, rates of overall absence and persistent absence have been above the national average.

“The school does not prepare pupils sufficiently for their next steps. Examination results in 2018 were very weak. Many current pupils, including in Year 11, are still making poor progress.

“Middle leadership is weak. Many middle leaders have been in post for a number of years. They have not made a positive difference to the quality of teaching or pupils’ outcomes in their departments

“The school’s and the trust’s improvement plans are not sharp enough. Recent improvements have not been sufficiently rapid or widespread.

“The quality of teaching is inadequate. Teachers have low expectations of their pupils. They do not use questioning effectively to check pupils’ understanding or to provide clear explanations to help pupils learn. Teachers do not build on pupils’ prior learning well enough, including that from Key Stage 2.”

In the report, Mr Wood outlined what Mrs Gregory had to oversee before her departure under the heading, ‘What does the school need to do to improve further?’

He continued: “Urgently improve the quality of teaching across the school so that pupils’ outcomes, including those for disadvantaged pupils and pupils who have SEN and/or disabilities, rapidly improve.”

Mrs Gregory’s efforts to improve the quality of what pupils receive after her appointment in January 2018 were noted in the inspection report.

However, it was not enough as Mr Wood said: “The principal and the new senior leadership team were unable to reverse pupils’ declining achievement.

“Year 11 pupils’ weak progress meant that attainment fell further in 2018. Efforts to improve the quality of teaching are not helping those pupils who currently attend the school to make up lost ground.

“The principal has a clear vision for the school. Senior leaders have an accurate view of the school’s strengths and weaknesses.

“Leaders have used this to identify the school’s most pressing issues. However, leaders’ plans to tackle the considerable shortcomings at the school lack measurable targets and clear milestones to ensure that leaders’ actions have their intended impact.

“Leaders are committed to sharing responsibility across the senior leadership team and among middle leaders.

“However, these leaders are still developing their approach. Many of their strategies for improving teaching in their areas of responsibility are in their infancy. As a result, they have had too little influence in improving pupils’ progress across a range of subjects.

“Plans are in the early stages of development and there is little evidence of their impact on improving the quality of teaching across the school. The way in which the curriculum is taught across all year groups has not supported good outcomes for pupils.

“The progress of disadvantaged pupils and those who have SEN and/or disabilities has been particularly weak over a number of years.”

Great Academies, which also runs Great Academy in Ashton and Silver Springs Primary Academy in Stalybridge, was also criticised in the report.

It states: “There is little evidence that support to the school from the trust’s executive leaders is making a positive difference.

“For example, they have helped to implement new ways of working such as the school’s new behaviour policy.

“However, the impact of their work on the school’s wider performance is limited. The principal is encouraging leaders to collaborate with a wide range of providers, within and beyond the trust, to learn from and share good practice.

“Senior leaders, governors and members of the trust failed to prevent a rapid decline in the quality of education offered at this school.

“During this period, pupils’ outcomes declined sharply and other aspects of the school’s performance became a cause for concern, including pupils’ attendance.”

Mrs Gregory’s absence from Copley started rumours about whether she would ever be back.
But a letter from Allison Crompton CBE, chief executive of Great Academies, revealed she had ‘taken the decision to move on to new challenges.’

She wrote: “Mrs Gregory has led the Copley community – staff, parents, carers and our students – during challenging times and we wish Mrs Gregory well for the future.

“This arrangement is in place for at least the next academic year to provide stability and leadership for the school.”

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