Headteacher seeks answers to ‘bruising’ Ofsted report

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DONINGTON’S Thomas Cowley High School is seeking answers from Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove after a ‘bruising and confusing’ Ofsted report.

In 2008 the school was rated “good” by Ofsted.

The school has since notched up at least a 14 per cent improvement in its five A* to C GCSE pass rate, including English and maths, but has now been dropped down one category to “satisfactory”.

Inspectors visited again in January and noted improvement after improvement but the overall verdict has come as a big blow to the school.

Headteacher Martyn Taylor has fired off letters to Mr Gove and South Holland and The Deepings MP John Hayes, a minister in the education department.

He is also in correspondence with Ofsted boss Christine Gilbert, the chief inspector of schools.

Mr Taylor said: “How can you be rated ‘good’, improve, and then be rated ‘satisfactory’?

“I have not had a reply from the Secretary of State, John Hayes has replied and said ‘keep me in touch with what the Secretary of State says’.”

Mr Taylor believes Ofsted looked at different criteria this time - and moved the goalposts without telling the school.

The headteacher is proud of the school’s five A* to C GCSE pass rate, including English and maths, which stands at 52 per cent although, he says, Ofsted rounded it down to 51 per cent.

He said: “We have concentrated on English and maths - and genuine GCSEs. We haven’t done those courses where you gain a number of GCSEs for one subject.”

Ofsted records the quality of teaching at the school as “satisfactory” but Mr Taylor disagrees and says the inspectors spend only 15 minutes in each lesson they assess.

The school is a secondary modern - which means more academically gifted pupils go to grammar schools.

Mr Taylor said the school’s results stand up very well in the context of the selective education system but the Ofsted inspectors didn’t seem interested in taking that into account.

He said: “I know how good my staff are. You don’t get the results we get with bad teaching or merely satisfactory teaching. We have got good quality teachers who can teach outstandingly well.

“The bottom line is we feel a little bruised, bloodied, but we are unbowed.”

The Ofsted report says: “The quality of teaching has improved and is satisfactory overall. Recent initiatives to improve it have resulted in some lessons being good and a few outstanding.”

It also says students join in Year 7 arrive with academic standards below the national average.

The report continues: “At the end of Year 11, they reach standards which are closing the gap between the school’s performance and the national average.

“Over the last three years, the proportion of students gaining five or more A* to C grades at GCSE, including English and mathematics, has risen from 37 per cent to 51 per cent, significantly below average to slightly below average.

“At the same time, those achieving five A* to C GCSE grades has improved from 51 per cent to 63 per cent.”