Two sides

PUBLISHED: 11:38 10 July 2008 | UPDATED: 13:25 06 May 2010

SIR, — As a parent governor of Francis Bacon School I am writing to give the other side of the story regarding the Ofsted inspection (Herts Advertiser, July 3). The school was given notice to improve and during the following year it received several monit

SIR, - As a parent governor of Francis Bacon School I am writing to give the other side of the story regarding the Ofsted inspection (Herts Advertiser, July 3).

The school was given notice to improve and during the following year it received several monitoring visits by Ofsted.

The idea of these monitoring visits is that the school gets a number of progress updates to see how it is doing, and if Ofsted see anything that is of concern they are supposed to give the school plenty of warning so that they have time to put things right.

These all came back positive - for example in November 2007 one inspector wrote in his monitoring report: "Having considered all the evidence I am of the opinion that at this time the school is making good progress overall in addressing the issues for improvement and in raising the pupils' achievement."

Staff were working extremely hard to improve in all areas and were confident that they would be brought out of notice to improve.

The school's own self-evaluation, which itself was being monitored, also had real evidence of improvement.

External consultants and specialists were also agreeing with Ofsted that the school had substantially improved.

The data I saw in governors' meetings also confirmed that the school was improving.

The Local Authority was also seeing a marked improvement, and the School Improvement Partner confirmed this.

So it came as a complete shock when Ofsted made the second full inspection and decided that the school had not improved quickly enough despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Staff had done all they had been asked to, and yet now the Ofsted team had come in and rated them as unsatisfactory with no warning given.

Ofsted also criticised governors, saying that they had not done enough to close the footpath that runs through the school, but governors had already succeeded in getting an extinguishment order and had spent many hours giving evidence at various legal hearings.

Governors were also criticised for not balancing the budget, but it was already in the final stages of being balanced and was balancing just a few days after the inspection. All this came without Ofsted actually meeting any governors to discuss it face to face.

I have two children at the school and they are doing really well, my eldest is taking core subject GCSEs a year early and is predicted at straight As or A*. They are very happy there and benefit from the Gifted and Talented programme. The staff are friendly and very dedicated to their job. They work extremely hard. Last term the maths teachers were turning up at 7.30am to start revision classes and then going on to do more after school.

The school has one of the most-advanced ICT systems in the county with thin client access so that students can log on at home via the internet and run all the applications that they have at school without having to pay for the software at home.

They are offering an OCR National Diploma in ICT worth 4 GCSEs to all students and this does not subtract any time from all the normal subjects. The school is offering a condensed Key Stage 3 programme to allow students to start GSCE options a year early, and then in Year 11 they can chose extra courses - for example in maths the school is offering Free Standing Maths Qualifications as well as the usual GCSE statistics.

The higher FSMQs earn UCAS points (recognised by universities) and provide a bridge between GCSE and A levels, and students will get a head start with their ASs.

The school is also is offering vocational courses for those who want to go down that path, enabling students to start to learn a trade from an early age.

One of the school's strengths is that it has a very strong pastoral programme of support for students who are facing problems at home or in their studies, and bullying is not a big issue. Neither is drugs an issue at the school. With the footpath now in the final stages of being closed, it is also a safe school.

I hope that your readers will see that Francis Bacon is a school that has many things going for it, and the recent Ofsted inspection with related press coverage do not do justice to the achievements and improvements made by the school.

NICK JONES,

Parent Governor, Francis Bacon School.

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