Earlham High's disastrous year

A disastrous year of high staff turnover, a focus away from core subjects and spiralling truancy led to the poor exam results of Earlham High School. Performance tables on dcsf.gov.uk

A disastrous year of high staff turnover, a focus away from core subjects and spiralling truancy led to the poor exam results of Earlham High School.

Combined with a lack of direction and leadership, pupils at the school on the outskirts of Norwich were left without the education and support they needed at a critical time of their life.

Current acting head teacher Geoff Best was drafted in to halt the decline and set the 810-pupil school on the road to recovery.

Despite the performance, which sets it among the worst school in the country, he is confident the school is improving.

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He also rejects suggestions that the pupils who sat their exams last May and June, with such a poor outcome, had been totally abandoned.

He said: “Those exams were taken when the school went into special measures at the end of a very difficult year and when we had a lot of staff turnover along with the head teacher going on leave at Christmas.

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“I am not trying to pretend the results are not disappointing but we had quite a large number of capable children excluded from the school.”

He said the school has a positive side where much of the education for children is away from the traditional exam-related teaching with a lot of youngsters doing work experience and work-related courses to prepare them for their future and many do go onto college and into jobs.

“The problem is that they do not produce GCSEs that show up on a league table but we have youngsters who are being well prepared to ensure that they still have a fulfilling future,” he said.

Attendance is 3-4pc higher than last year, though Mr Best concedes that is still not good enough but the number of children wanting to come to Earlham School was holding up well.

“The community is loyal to this school, parents are highly supportive, what we have to do is make sure this school fulfils their expectations.”

David Brunton from Wymondham High School takes over as a new permanent head teacher at Easter.

As to what the future holds for Earlham, which has an annual budget of £5m, Mr Best remains uncertain.

“There will always be a school here to meet the demands of the community,” he said. “Discussions are still ongoing whether that should be in a different form, such as an academy of a trust or in partnership with another school.”

Mr Best said work continued to reduce exclusions and refocus teaching at the school with more emphasis on literacy and numeracy and partnership with other schools such as Wymondham High School in maths.

He said: “The staff that have worked in this school through this difficult year need to be recognised for their determination and commitment. It has been a difficult time through no fault of their own, they are still here, they are strong people and determine this school will be successful. Earlham is a perfectly pleasant school,” he added. “We just have to get it back to working properly.”

NUT county secretary Tony Mulgrew has had regular meetings with acting heads and staff at Earlham over the ongoing problems.

He said: “Behaviour is one of the main problems and it then becomes very difficult to do the teaching and planning, which in turn affects exam results.

“It has been a very stressful time for teachers, especially when a school is in special measures because everything is so closely monitored. But also if you cannot get the children to school, you can't teach them. There is a responsibility among the children and their families to get to school.”

However, with the appointment of a permanent head the staff were more optimistic for the future, he said.

t Are you a pupil, parent, teacher or governor of Earlham High School? What do you think has gone wrong, and is the situation really as bad as the league tables suggest? What can be done to improve things? Please contact reporter Jon Welch on 01603 772476 or jon.welch@archant.co.uk

Performance tables on dcsf.gov.uk

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