“Scandal” of Quarry Hill

“Unmarked Books” “Undisciplined classes” “Inflated Grades” “Low Standards” “Inadequate Care” “Bullying” “Poor Attendance”

Introduction

Over the years, you get used to reading Ofsted reports. Some describe a school as a shining educational beacon, such as Ockendon School, Gable Hall and Shaw Primary and then all the way across to Chadwell Nursery.

You can also chart the progress of a school as it climbs out from a difficult place. Chafford Hundred Campus under Chris Tomlinson’s stewardship has seen a school rise from “Notice to Improve” to clearly knocking on the door of being an Outstanding school.

Plus, if you ever have the chance to visit Stifford Primary School, you will be amazed by the work that Mark Jones and his team produce.

In all cases it seems that the schools have a strange and strained relationship with the Council.

Many senior educationalists have slammed the level of communication as “dreadful”
Some have quietly welcomed that distance as it has enabled them to get on with the business of teaching.

But that is a dangerous game and was exposed in the fiasco of the Grays School descending into special measures when every man could see it was a struggling school but the Council remained hamstrung in doing anything about it.

It appears that the same has happened again at Quarry Hill Junior School in what can only be described as one of the worst Ofsted reports for a Thurrock school in decades.

From the Ofsted report it was clear that this school has been struggling since 2005. In 2007, Quarry Hill was embroiled in a controversy when the students were allegedly photographed in the changing rooms at Blackshots Swimming Pool. When parents approached a teacher regarding their child’s alegations, according to the parents, the teacher said: “Oh children say these things, don’t they?”

Did that alleged comment display a worrying complacency that has infected the whole school?

It appeared then, that there was a cultural problem in the school that needed to be addressed. It appears that such a system simply isn’t in place and so, the school slides into chaos and confusion. Education suffers and then the Council come out with their rescue strategy.

The simple question is: why is their not an early warning system in place? Don’t tell us there is as YourThurrock knows of two other schools that at this moment are struggling and are receiving very little support.

So, what does the report say?

1. The Bottom Line
Ofsted is of the opinion that this school requires special measures because it is failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education and the persons responsible for leading, managing or governing the school are not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvement.

2. Chaos in the Classroom
The quality of teaching and learning is inadequate and does not enable pupils to learn quickly and reach standards.
Teachers do not identify gaps in pupils’ learning.
Too many basic skills are missing.
Teachers do not engage pupils in their learning.

As a result, pupils lose concentration and there are times when some demonstrate silly, immature behaviour. This has a negative impact on their personal development and well-being.

In some instances teachers lack the skills to manage pupils’ behaviour and this prevents pupils from focusing fully on their learning.

3.Abysmal Standards
Standards are well below average in English and are exceptionally low in mathematics and science. Progress is hindered by inaccurate assessment of pupils’ learning.

Day-to-day assessment of pupils’ learning is weak
Teachers’ evaluations are inaccurate and often inflated.

Time allocated for the teaching of National Curriculum subjects is often changed at short notice due to a seemingly casual attitude towards programming lessons.

National Curriculum requirements are not covered fully and the school curriculum is inadequate. Care, guidance and support are also inadequate because of weaknesses in the arrangements for carrying out risk assessments and inadequacies in the quality of academic guidance.

The school lacks direction. The school development plan contains too many priorities and initiatives and does not identify the most significant issues affecting pupils’ learning.

4. No Team-work

The school’s self-evaluation is too generous,
Senior managers and subject leaders have not been sufficiently effective in supporting the headteacher’s efforts to bring about improvement.

Subject leaders do not monitor pupils’ progress or the quality of teaching and learning effectively.

5.In Decline for Four Years!

Standards have been in decline since 2005.

Unvalidated test results for 2008 indicate that standards in English were below average but were exceptionally low in mathematics and science.

Although the school’s own tracking data show there may be some improvement in 2009, an analysis of work in pupils’ books strongly indicates a less favourable outcome. This is because teachers’ assessments of pupils’ achievements are not accurate.

Standards in mathematics and science are still exceptionally low and many pupils are failing to attain the standards of which they capable. This is due in part to the failure of teachers to spot gaps in pupils’ understanding during lessons or to respond to shortfalls in pupils’ progress over time.

6. Ill-Discipline and Poor Attendance
Attendance is below average and actions taken by the school have not sustained the necessary improvement. The overall behaviour of pupils is satisfactory but it ranges from good to poor.

In some lessons pupils engage in inappropriate behaviour, fidgeting and shouting out. The development of basic skills for future stages in pupils’ learning and for later life, is inadequate.

7. Teachers: High Absenteeism and Out of Touch

There has been considerable instability amongst the teaching staff over the past year with changes in personnel, significant periods of sick leave and the deployment of a number of different supply teachers. This has made it difficult to ensure consistent and effective teaching, has been very unsettling for pupils and had an adverse effect on their learning.

Planning is weak and not consistently well matched to the range of pupils’ needs. Often all pupils in a class are engaged in the same task at the same level, which leaves more able pupils marking time and less able pupils struggling.

Where teaching is inadequate, the pace of learning is often slow and pupils fail to complete the set task. Teachers are not sufficiently aware of pupils’ basic misconceptions; pupils lose concentration and struggle to make any progress. Teachers’ marking is too variable and does not consistently make clear to pupils how they can improve.

IN SOME SUBJECTS A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF PUPILS’ WORK REMAINS UNMARKED

8.Health and Safety Risks

Staff are concerned and committed to ensuring the health, safety and protection of pupils but school systems and structures are not rigorous enough.

Some risk assessments and fire drills are carried out but there is insufficient evidence that these are done regularly and robustly. Currently the school’s arrangements for risk assessments are unsatisfactory.

At the time of the inspection, procedures for safeguarding pupils met government requirements.

Bullying and poor behaviour remain a concern for some parents.

9. Out-of-Touch Management

The school’s leadership has been pursuing too many initiatives and priorities and this has resulted in a lack of focus, particularly on the areas for improvement identified in the last inspection report.

Consequently, progress towards resolving these has been inadequate. Leaders have not succeeded in stemming the decline in standards in English, mathematics and science.

They have not focused sufficiently on raising achievement, and improving the quality of teaching and learning with the required urgency. The senior leadership team has yet to demonstrate the ability to support middle managers in tackling underachievement.

To date, subject leaders have taken too little responsibility for monitoring the quality of teaching and learning within their own areas.

10. Poor Cohesion and Equal Opportunities

Community cohesion is weak both at local and the wider, global level, and plans are under-developed.

The school does not promote equal opportunities effectively enough because the curriculum and teaching do not meet the full range of pupils’ learning needs.

Council Action

An Interim Head, Martin Cowpland has been installed. Time will tell if he is able to turn the school around. Many of the Super-Heads do.

But is the point that it has taken four years for someone to take action and what damage has been done to the education of hundreds of Thurrock school pupils.

Perhaps all the effort and money spent in trying to (unsuccessfully) close Chadwell Primary should have been spent on improving Quarry Hill.

Can such reactive policies to educational standards remain. It will be interesting to know what the Audit Commission/Improvement Board make of it all.

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