St Albans’ Nicholas Breakspear School placed in special measures


Ofsted - Credit: Archant

The executive headteacher of a St Albans school that has been put into special measures after a critical Oftsed report has vowed to work “relentlessly” to turn it around.

Nicholas Breakspear School in Colney Heath Lane has been rated ‘inadequate’ overall by education watchdogs who have said the achievement of pupils, quality of teaching and leadership and management requires significant improvement.

Following the inspectors’ visit in October, they also found the behaviour and safety of pupils must be improved as attendance is below average and too many students miss school for long periods of time.

In addition, it was noted that in several subjects, such as science and English, a string of different temporary teachers had slowed down students’ learning.

The report continued: “Pupils do not make the progress expected of them because there is too little good teaching.

“Pupils join the school in Year 7 having attained standards that are typically average in reading, writing and mathematics. In 2012, the proportion of pupils that attained five or more GCSE A* to C grades including English and mathematics was below average. Standards fell further in 2013.”

The last time the secondary school was scrutinised by Ofsted, before it became an academy in March 2012, it was judged to be satisfactory. In January 2010, it was singled out as one of 150 schools nationwide to be personally recognised as one of the most improved in the country by the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Education Secretary Ed Balls at a reception in 10 Downing Street.

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But in the past year, the school has been plagued with problems resulting in low morale and redundancies among both teaching and support staff. There was also a falling-off in the number of children applying for a place at the school.

At the start of this academic year Nicholas Breakspear had a shake-up to its senior leadership team when Clive Mathew was appointed executive head following the sudden retirement of former headteacher Phil Jakszta in the summer.

Mr Mathew, who is also headteacher of John Henry Newman Catholic School in Stevenage, was praised in the report for quickly starting to tackle “weak” teaching and learning.

In a letter sent out to parents, he said: “This [the report] is obviously a concern and not a position we would want to be in. As I stated in my recent letter to you all, this is not unexpected.

“Many of you have shared your concerns with me about the school and have asked me if we are able to move forward and provide a better education for our children – I have always commented that I am absolutely certain that the school is on an upward journey and the provision we are providing, is improving daily.”

Mr Mathew went on: “I assure you that we take the findings of the team very seriously and will work relentlessly to ensure that we move out of ‘special measures’ in the shortest possible time.”

Nicholas Breakspear will now be regularly monitored by Ofsted inspectors.