Decline in teaching at school rated ‘good’

Date published: 19 November 2018

Teaching standards at a Rochdale school rated as ‘good’ have fallen into decline, the government’s education watchdog has found.

St Cuthbert’s RC High School was given a positive appraisal by Ofsted in 2014 but a recent ‘short inspection’ it carried out has uncovered a number of areas of concern.

As a result, the next assessment of the school, on Shaw Road, Thornham, will be a more intensive ‘section five’ inspection.

The report acknowledges that new headteacher Shaun Shields has ‘quickly and accurately’ identified weakness at the school and begun to make improvements.

But it adds: “Since the previous inspection, there has been a decline in the overall quality of teaching.”

It continues: “The progress of children studying for their GCSE exams has deteriorated steadily over the last three years with the results of national tests showing it to be ‘well below the national average’.”

Inspectors also found that the progress of disadvantaged pupils has declined at the faster rate than that of others at the school.

The report adds: “Consequently, the difference between the progress made by this group of pupils at the school and other pupils nationally is widening.

“The proportion of pupils that achieve a standard pass in English and mathematics at GCSE has been below the national average for the last two years.”

Attendance is another issue flagged up by Ofsted inspector Erica Sharman’s report.

While the rate has been in line with the national average over the last three years, the proportion of pupils regularly absent from school is higher than the national average.

And the report finds that the number of disadvantaged pupils who are often absent from class is ‘particularly high and shows little sign of improvement.’

Mr Shields, formerly deputy headteacher, took the top job in September and his experience is said to have ‘stood him in good stead.’

It adds that new training he has introduced has led to teachers improving and many now ‘plan learning based on what pupils already know’, meaning pupils make ‘consistently good progress.’

However it is noted that this is not always the case: “There are still some occasions when teachers’ expectations of pupils are not high enough. As a result, learning lacks challenge and pupils do not take pride in their work,” the report adds.

Despite the watchdog’s criticism, the report also praises the school for its ‘welcome atmosphere’  and ‘happy and confident pupils.’

Behaviour is also said to be improving due to ‘teachers being everywhere’ and the safeguarding of pupils was found to be ‘effective.’

St Cuthbert’s Ofsted rating of ‘good’ is not affected by the findings of the short inspection, which was carried out in October.

Headteacher Shaun Shields said: “We are very pleased that we have retained our ‘Good’ rating and we would be happy for people to read the whole report to see what Ofsted have said.

“The really positive feedback from inspectors is reward for the hard work staff and governors are doing. Inspectors could see that we have already been putting strategies in place and that we have made many substantial changes prior to the inspection.

"Our self-evaluation had identified the same areas for improvements as Ofsted which demonstrates how parents can be assured that we are performing well and planning to improve areas that require improvement quickly.

"We continue to work hard, monitoring everything we do through our relentless drive on self-improvement to ensure we provide the best education we can for our young people."

The school’s next steps include:

  • Improve teaching by ensuring that teachers have consistently high expectations of what pupils can achieve
  • Ensure that teachers use assessment information to plan teaching that challenges pupils and builds on their prior learning
  • Improve outcomes for pupils at key stage 4 across subjects
  • Improve rates of attendance for disadvantaged pupils
  • Embed the new behaviour policy and reduce the proportion of pupils excluded from school for a fixed period

Ofsted short inspection of St Cuthbert’s RC High School

Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporter

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