Wetherby High School rapidly improving, says Ofsted

Wetherby High's executive headteacher Simon Flowers and acting headteacher Lucie Lakin.
Wetherby High's executive headteacher Simon Flowers and acting headteacher Lucie Lakin.
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Wetherby High School still requires improvement, says Ofsted, but has made significant improvements in several key areas.

The watchdog’s report, published yesterday, maintained the overall verdict delivered at the last inspection in 2012.

However, the leadership and management at the school and the behaviour and safety of pupils rose to good in the eyes of the inspectors.

This is the first official visit from the education authority since the new leadership team, consisting of executive head Simon Flowers and acting head Lucie Lakin from Carr Manor Community School in Leeds, was drafted in to work in partnership with Wetherby High School’s board of governors.

The report, which was written after a two-day visit to the school, involving meetings with staff, parents, and students, says the sixth form ‘requires improvement’, standards in GCSEs fell in 2014, and ‘teaching has not enabled students to make good progress’.

Nonetheless, it points out that the leadership team, which has been in post for only five school weeks, is acting ‘swiftly to reverse the decline’ in achievement, that teachers are eager to improve their teaching, and that students ‘feel very safe and acknowledge the school is improving quickly’.

Responding to the report, Mrs Lakin said: “We are really pleased with the reference to the pace and impact of improvement and that Ofsted have recognised the positive changes we have made and the speed with which we had made those changes.

“We feel that showed the support for our work and they recognised the capacity for sustained improvement. They gave a clear show of confidence in our ability to make those changes. The inspection team spoke to large numbers of students over the two days, so we are delighted for that to be resoundingly positive and that they feel safe and happy. The children share the approach we have and they are committed and enthusiastic about the progress we have made.”

Mrs Lakin told the Wetherby News that, in a short amount of time, the school has made rapid progress in many areas and, where it still requires improvement, actions have been taken to begin that improvement.

This, she said, is thanks to the involvement of the whole community who have taken a renewed interest in Wetherby High School.

“For Ofsted to have recognised the strength and the improvement we have achieved in just five school weeks, I am certain that the school will use this as a platform to accentuate the strengths and build on and address the areas of improvement that we are already doing. We will go from strength to strength,” she said.

The report from Ofsted follows a visit to the school last month when 44 lessons were observed and formal discussions were held.

Students’ work was scrutinised and behaviour was observed both in lessons and on breaks and in the canteen.

During that time the inspection team, comprising four inspectors led by Colin Scott, judged that enough progress was made in the short time since the school’s new start to accredit two aspects of the school as good.

Executive headteacher Simon Flowers said: “The inspection report is a key moment for our community as it identifies a rapidly improving, harmonious school.

“We look forward to continuing our hard work together as we build on our many highlighted strengths.”

This most recent inspection follows two on-the-spot visits (known as section eight inspections) carried out in February 2013 and November 2013 that were deemed necessary after findings in the full inspection in 2012.

Now the inspectors say, ‘leaders have an extremely honest and accurate view of the school’s performance and know precisely what needs to be done in order to improve the outcomes for students’.

And where there is work to be done, to improve attainment and teaching, which does not always challenge students or allow them to progress well, plans are in place to effect a change.

Chair of governors Cindy Bentley said: “I do think the report is a fair representation. The governors are absolutely delighted with it.

“We know there are still areas that need improvement but I think we have made huge amounts of progress since our partnership with Carr Manor.

“I think the behaviour and safety aspect of the report to me is the best. It was a problem but I think the new team has put in huge efforts and it has really paid off.

“I am also really delighted with the comments from students. It is quite obvious they are happy with the new regime and if they are happy they will do well.”

Setting the report in context, Mrs Bentley added: “You have got to look where we started from. When I took over as chair last March we were starting from quite a low point and I think we have made huge progress with the support of the Carr Manor team and the local authority.

“The focus has to be on the children and what is best for them and that is what I like about the Carr Manor team.

“In two year’s time when we get the next inspection I have every confidence we will do very well.”