Hockwold and Methwold Community School “inadequate”
A school known for its pioneering ideas aimed at improving education within rural Norfolk has been placed in special measures.
Hockwold and Methwold Community School, which became the first in the county to amalgamate primary and secondary pupils last year and also offers degree courses, was found to be 'inadequate' by Ofsted inspectors.
Literacy in particular needed to be improved as a 'matter of urgency', they found, while 'too much' teaching was inadequate or satisfactory and middle management was lacking the capacity to deliver pupils' needs.
Some 24 teachers and 27 lessons were observed over two days in January by a team of five inspectors.
Chief inspector Lindsay Hebditch said in a report: 'The school's overall effectiveness is inadequate. Pupils' attainment is below average and the progress they make is too variable. In mathematics pupils make good progress, but in English progress is inadequate.
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'After a satisfactory start in the Early Years Foundation Stage, pupils do not make enough progress with their reading because they have insufficient opportunities to develop their skills. By the time they reach the secondary phase, pupils have a fragile grasp of reading and writing, which slows their subsequent progress. In particular, low ability boys make very slow progress.' She said the school, which has 826 students, needed to improve pupils' reading by enabling them to practise their skills, improve literacy by developing a policy for the whole school and provide clear guidance for teachers. Consistent standards of marking should be implemented, she added, lessons should be challenging for students at all levels, best-practice should be shared between departments and the curriculum should be improved.
The school merged pupils from Methwold High and Hockwold Primary in September last year and saw 15 extra children pass through its doors last term, up from 93 at the same time last year.
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The amalgamation now means many pupils are taught at the same school throughout their education, from four to 18-years-old.
It also extended its age range of education for older pupils and began offering degree and distance learning courses in September, with the aim of providing a credible alternative for school-leavers and mature students in an area where higher education is often out of reach, culturally and financially.
The programme also received a pat on the back from the government when head Denise Walker visited minister for universities and science David Willetts during the planning stages.
Chair of governors, Jeff Prosser said he was 'disappointed' with the inspection results, but had held a meeting with parents and outlined a plan to address the criticisms. He added: 'We were one of the first schools in the country to be inspected under the new scheme which only came in on January 1 and it is clear the goal posts have been moved quite significantly.
'Nevertheless there are obvious areas where we need to improve and these have been highlighted as our performance in English examinations, the teaching of literacy throughout the school and in some instances the quality of some of our teaching.
'We are already putting in place actions to deal with the criticisms of the inspectors and have been assured of the full support of the Local Education Authority in giving us the help we need.
'Hockwold and Methwold Community School has a strong future ahead of it and with a partnership between the school, the LEA, parents and staff we will reverse the harsh judgements currently being made.'