Wigan headteacher's joy at school’s much improved Ofsted report

A Wigan secondary school previously panned by an education watchdog is on an “increased trajectory of improvement” thanks to its leaders and governors.

Wednesday, 28th April 2021, 7:00 am

That was the verdict of Ofsted inspectors who carried out a monitoring visit to Lowton CE High School.

The Newton Road school had been marked as “requires improvement” - the third lowest of four possible scores - in its last full inspection in 2019.

Then, Ofsted’s report said leaders had not been able to offer “a consistently good quality of education” and some weaknesses in leadership “hampered the pace of improvement”.

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Lowton High School's headteacher Kieran Larkin

Changes have been made at the school since, including 15 members of staff leaving and 21 being appointed, among them headteacher Kieran Larkin.

In her report to Mr Larkin, inspector Rachel Goodwin wrote: “Governors have taken decisive action to strengthen the leadership of the school.

“This has contributed to the recent increased trajectory of improvement. Governors’ renewed vision for the school, coupled with the determined leadership of you and the leadership team, have begun to promote change.

“Your openness and transparency enable governors to be more strategic in their role. Consequently, governors are holding you and other leaders to account more effectively, including during the current circumstances.”

Ofsted found leaders and governors were “taking effective action” to provide education during the pandemic.

They had developed a curriculum that was “ambitious for all pupils” and “streamlined” the priorities for the school’s improvement.

The pandemic had given subject leaders and teachers time to review their curriculums, to ensure they defined what pupils needed to learn.

Feedback from pupils and parents had seen teachers adapt remote education and they had modified face-to-face classroom teaching “successfully”.

Ofsted found leaders were “taking care” to prepare year 11 pupils for when they leave school, ensuring they continued with their usual exam subjects and offering “effective” careers information.

There were “clear processes” to identify and support the weakest readers, with specialist phonics teaching which was having a “positive effect”.

Changes had been made to the leadership of special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND), which was “increasing the effectiveness of teachers’ work”.

Ms Goodwin wrote: “You and other leaders have many strategies in place to ensure that your most vulnerable pupils are attending school. Leaders’ successful work with families has improved the attendance of these pupils over time. Pupils said that they value the support that they receive from staff. Leaders work closely with external agencies to ensure that these pupils continue to receive the timely support that they need. Pupils’ safety is paramount to all staff at the school. As such, staff make daily contact with vulnerable pupils who are learning at home.”

She said leaders and governors should take further action to implement and embed the new curriculum plans for each subject across key stages three and four, and ensure teachers and teaching assistants develop knowledge of how to adapt the curriculum for pupils with SEND.

Mr Larkin welcomed the report, telling parents the school would “continue and further strengthen our focus on providing an excellent education in which your child can flourish, thrive and succeed”.

He said: “The report is very positive about the significant progress we are making despite the context of the pandemic. The two areas that have been agreed during the inspection for us to focus on going forward are areas we already have in our school improvement plan.

“The successful actions taken by leaders at all levels to improve the school from the last inspection are noted, as well as the strength of the governing body in supporting the school in its ‘recent increased trajectory of improvement’ and our renewed vision for the school.

“The report positively notes how we adapted our curriculum to match the context of the disruption caused by the pandemic, particularly during the lockdown period and makes clear the ambition we have for all students. Inspectors were impressed with the way staff are working together to continually improve what and how we teach.”

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