Flood-hit Carlisle school plunged into special measures

Flooded Newman School
Flooded Newman School

Carlisle's Newman School - operating from the shell of an old primary school after being swamped by floods - has been dealt another devastating blow by being plunged into special measures.

Government inspectors have today (FRI) published a scathing report into the 600-pupil Catholic secondary school, condemning it as "inadequate".

They say Newman School is failing to deliver "an acceptable standard of education" and leaders are not demonstrating the capacity to drive forward improvements.

Newman's leaders have hit back and say the school's continuing recovery is nothing short of "miraculous" and improvements made, despite the devastation caused by Storm Desmond, have been "ignored" by inspectors who visited in January.

Headteacher John McAuley said that parts of the report published this morning (FRI) describe a school that they "do not recognise" and that inspections should provide a "true and accurate picture".

Newman School is currently based on the former Pennine Way Primary School site in Silverdale Road, Harraby.

Work continues with the Government, Cumbria County Council, Diocese of Lancaster, insurers, developers and landowners to secure a new site and funding for a multi-million pound rebuild.

It is the second time the school has been in special measures whilst trying to recover from major flooding.

Newman School was inspected in November 2004, weeks before it became one of the biggest victims of the city's January 2005 floods.

This time round Ofsted inspectors' key findings include:

* Leaders and governors have not acted quickly or decisive enough to bring about improvements since last inspection;

* School improvement planning is weak;

* Leaders have not responded effectively to support they have received;

* Additional funds to support disadvantaged or low attaining pupils have not been used effectively;

* Boys, disadvantaged pupils and those with special needs make poor progress and reach low standards in some subjects;

* Teaching is very variable and does not meet pupils' needs;

* Attendance is below the national average.

Mr McAuley said: "Of course, there are many things which we are in the process of developing and many positive observations made by inspectors, but some of the report’s comments simply paint a picture of a school we do not recognise.

"Furthermore, none of what the school community has been through in the last year was considered in the inspection process and the fact that attainment continued to rise year on year, despite the hugely adverse effects of Storm Desmond, was also ignored during the inspection."

Inspectors judge the personal development, behaviour and welfare of pupils to require improvement.

Mr McAuley added: "The judgement for personal development, behaviour and welfare is simply ridiculous. We have a handful of students suffering from long term medical conditions who have had prolonged absence and who require support.

"Their absence has reduced the average whole school attendance. We are an inclusive school and have put extensive interventions in place to support these students. An inclusive school which shows this commitment to vulnerable students is given no credit in the current Ofsted inspection framework and is therefore penalised."

Mr McAuley also believes Newman School has fallen victim to the new way that school performance is measured.

He said: "The new Progess 8 measure, which measures the progress over time of all students, is averaged out over the GCSE results of all eligible Year 11 students.
"This means that any school with a small minority of young people with exceptional needs, medical conditions, challenging home backgrounds or poor attendance will be at a disadvantage."

Strengths noted by inspectors include its sixth form, careers advice, safeguarding, calm and positive behaviour, and a broad and balanced curriculum.

Letters and copies of the new report were sent to parents yesterday (THURS).

An action plan is being drawn up.

Schools that are put into special measures receive regular visits to check improvements are being made quickly.

Failing schools are also at risk of being turned into academies.

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