Shock for St Albans school put into special measures

PUBLISHED: 10:20 03 July 2008 | UPDATED: 13:25 06 May 2010

The head of Francis Bacon School Jacqui Verrall

The head of Francis Bacon School Jacqui Verrall

A STRUGGLING St Albans secondary school has been placed in special measures because standards of achievement have not improved sufficiently in the past year. Francis Bacon in Drakes Drive, St Albans, had been served with a Notice to Improve in March 2007

A STRUGGLING St Albans secondary school has been placed in special measures because standards of achievement have not improved sufficiently in the past year.

Francis Bacon in Drakes Drive, St Albans, had been served with a Notice to Improve in March 2007 because a team from Ofsted - Office for Standards in Education - felt that students' achievement and behaviour needed to improve.

The school was confident that improvements would result in a better outcome when it was inspected again this year and was devastated to learn that Ofsted did not agree.

Instead Francis Bacon was put in special measures because Ofsted feels it is failing to give its students an acceptable standard of education even though it has met the required improvement in pupil behaviour.

It also found that those responsible for leading, managing or governing the school were not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvement.

In a highly-critical report, Ofsted said that standards and achievements remained inadequate with Key Stage 3 national tests and GCSE exam results in 2007 significantly below expectations.

The progress of students in Years Nine and 11 remained a concern and although pupil progress between Years Seven to 11 had improved, it remained below average.

Ofsted puts weaknesses in teaching and learning at the heart of the under-achievement. Despite noting a significant amount of good and outstanding teaching, a significant amount was found to be inadequate.

Head teacher Jacqui Verrall, who was praised in the report for providing clear direction and satisfactory leadership, said the special measures had come as a huge shock to the school which felt it had been heading in the right direction over the past year.

But instead of knocking morale and confidence, staff and students were determined to get the school back on an even keel, she said.

She explained that some of the governors had resigned or would be leaving and Herts County Council would be providing associate governors to lend their expertise.

The school had also set up an Education Improvement Partnership with Beaumont, Sandringham and Verulam Schools which would enable a small group of teachers from Francis Bacon to receive support from teachers at the other schools.

Ms Verrall said that children at Francis Bacon were no more of a problem than those at other schools in St Albans but admitted that they came in at Year Seven with lower entry levels - something she was in discussions with local primary school heads about.

She added: "The prime concern of Ofsted is to improve exam results. We want all our children to achieve so we are working as hard as we can to realise their potential but if you have children starting at a lower base, you have to work a lot harder."

But she remained positive about the future of Francis Bacon even though it is only admitting around half of Year Sevens that it has places for and has done for the past two years.

She added: "I am very optimistic. When we were challenged with poor behaviour, the students responded very well and I know I have some good staff here who are able to do very well.

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