Academy trust says it is committed to Wigan high school for long haul

The head has reassured parents it is pulling out all the stops to drive up standards.

Monday, 26th July 2021, 10:11 am
Updated Monday, 26th July 2021, 10:14 am

James Haseldine, the executive head teacher at Dean Trust Wigan in Orrell, says the education organisation which runs both the Greenhey school and Dean Trust Rose Bridge is very much in the borough to stay and working hard to drive up standards.

The Department for Education (DfE) recently published a letter which warned that academies can have their financial arrangements terminated in the event of poor Ofsted results.

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Head boy Billy Benson, executive head James Haseldine and head girl Sofia Dinallo

And Mr Haseldine has now voiced his frustration, saying the intervention was extremely unhelpful and distracted from the considerable improvements that have been put in place since inspectors raised concerns last year, especially given how late it was published.

He said he believes things have already got much better than they were when Dean Trust Wigan was deemed inadequate in April 2020.

And he said this is just the start as the trust still has a lot it wants to do to ensure pupils at the Greenhey school receive the very best education possible.

Mr Haseldine said: “When the Dean Trust comes to a school we go into areas that need us and where we feel we can make a difference.

“Our ambition is to deliver a school that provides a really high-quality education for young people, and we will give everything to do that.

“We want to make young people employable and for them to go on and have a great life. We’re providing personal development and character education.

“What we have been doing over the past 18 months, in the face of challenges, has been geared towards providing that and we are pleased with the progress we have made. We’re excited about the work we’re going to continue in the future.

“The letter was a distraction. We know that when academies get a poor Ofsted report, like the one the school got in 2020, schools are reminded of their responsibilities. Since then we’ve been working very hard to continue to improve.

“We will continue to do that until we get the quality of provision our young people deserve. Our school is about a culture of achievement and this community deserves and needs nothing less.

“A letter arriving late like that would confuse parents and supporters of the school. We’ve had conversations at the level they need to be had and we’ve reassured parents and young people.

“We focus in on making sure we continue to do the job, which is working with young people and our staff to stick to the plan of improvement and not let anything distract us from that.”

Dean Trust Wigan has already had some of its recent improvements recognised by the inspectorate, with a monitoring visit concluding it has been providing effective education to pupils during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Haseldine says he has been left full of admiration for how the pupils and staff have dealt with the unprecedented challenges of the past 18 months.

He said: “I have been absolutely amazed at the adaptability and positive mindset and determination of our staff and pupils in the face of unbelievable challenges.

“It shows what our team and young people are capable of with creativity and hard work. It has been stunning.

“People have realised things about themselves and each other during what has been a very difficult time for everybody.

“It has been inspiring to me. If we can get through what we have got through together during this period we can achieve anything.”

Mr Haseldine says Dean Trust Wigan has been focused on trying to keep things as normal as possible, despite restrictions such as year and group bubbles and social distancing, rules over masks and face coverings and other regulations to try to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The school has even managed to run some visits and end-of-year trips within the regulations as well as extra-curricular activities, sports and assemblies.

While keen to stress that the school will have to wait and see what September brings, Mr Haseldine says fingers are crossed that progress against Covid will be made over the summer.

He said: “Children want normality. They want to come to school and be with their friends and teachers. Parents also want to get back to normal.

“The difficulties have been around the changes in guidance and communicating that to make sure we are all clear and on the same page.

“I think this is a good time for a break for everybody. It’s important people stay safe over the summer and in September we need to be as careful as possible.

“Children want to get back to normal as quickly as possible, and we have tried to keep school as normal as possible.”

The impact Dean Trust Wigan is having becomes clear when the new head boy and girl are shown into Mr Haseldine’s office to receive their badges for the roles they will take on in September.

Both speak eloquently about why they wanted to take on the positions and their ambitions for the future.

Head girl Sofia Dinallo, from Orrell, said: “It’s such a brilliant opportunity and fantastic to be a role model, not only for everybody in the school but for young girls, to change the culture.

“I want to be a role model for anybody going through anything negative or hardship in their lives, to know there’s light at the end of that tunnel and they are still able to accomplish such fantastic things.

“I didn’t want to pass up an opportunity like this.”

Head boy Billy Benson, from Kitt Green, said: “It’s the achievement of being head boy and inspiring the younger ones in school.

“It’s also inspired the younger ones in my family, to always achieve things.

“I’m the first in my family to be head boy and they are very proud.

“We’re also empowered to be able to change things round school.”

Sofia is hoping to go to college and then university to study history while Billy is considering either studying maths at college or trying to get a higher-level apprenticeships in industries such as banking or accountancy.

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