Previously ‘good’ school told it must improve by watchdog

Date published: 18 March 2019

A Rochdale school previously rated as ‘good’ has been told it must improve following a recent inspection.

St Cuthbert’s RC High School was praised by Ofsted officials back in 2014, but a visit by officials last October sparked a number of concerns.

They returned to carry out a full assessment in February and found that – while improvements were continuing under new headteacher Shaun Shields – it still has some way to go.

All five of the areas inspectors looked at were found to be below standard, and they gave it an overall rating of ‘requires improvement’.

The report says that, despite making important strides in the right direction under new headteacher Shaun Shields, teaching at the Thornham school was too often not at the level it should be.

Mr Shields says that the school is aware of its weaknesses and is ‘leaving no stone unturned’ in its efforts to address them.

This is reflected in the report which says a range of measures have ‘eradicated the weakest teaching’, while stronger ‘inspirational’ teachers have become role models fo colleagues,

This – and other steps – have resulted in pupils this year ‘making better progress than has previously been the case,’ officials found.

The report says ‘too much teaching is still ineffective in ensuring that pupils achieve their full academic potential’ and: “The planning of learning does not take enough account of what pupils, especially the most able, already know and understand.”

Inspectors also raised concerns over the progress disadvantaged pupils were making in comparison to peers from more affluent backgrounds.

The report states: “Although the disadvantaged pupils currently in the school are achieving more than in the past, they are still far from catching up with their non-disadvantaged peers.”

While the government’s Pupil Premium for disadvantaged children was said to be being used in a ‘more precise way’, plans are at an early stage and are yet to produce the desired results.

On a more positive note, pupils of middle and lower ability were found to now be achieving more than in previous years.

However, the report adds that ‘the most able pupils continue to underachieve when account is taken of their results at the end of primary school’.

Attendance at the school, in Shaw Road, is below average and was found to be a further cause for concern.

“Too many pupils are regularly absent from school and miss important learning,” notes the report.

It continues: “Despite a slight improvement, the attendance of disadvantaged pupils remains below that of non-disadvantaged pupils in the school and across the country.”

The school’s work to promote pupils’ personal development was also found to ‘require improvement’, with a minority of pupils not showing respect for peers who are different from themselves.

The report states: “These pupils do not take account of the impact of thoughtless racist and homophobic name-calling on the feelings and self-esteem of their peers.”

However, pupils have been supported by school leaders to form an ‘equality group’ which been instrumental in organising two ‘equality days’ set to take place next month.

Responding to the report Mr Shields said: “Governors, senior leaders and I are well aware of the work we need to do to further improve the school and we have a robust plan in place.

“We will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to provide a truly outstanding educational experience for all of our students.

“The recent Ofsted report agreed with the vast majority of the school’s own self-evaluation and what we need to do to further improve. The report identified that this improvement has already begun.”

Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporter

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