A Wigan primary where parents were banned from the grounds requires more improvement before it can leave special measures.
That’s the verdict of inspectors from education watchdogs Ofsted after a recent visit to Holy Family Catholic Primary School in Platt Bridge.
The school, which was judged to be “inadequate” in November 2016, sparked controversy last year when parents were excluded from the site following a series of rows.
But inspectors found pupils themselves liked the new arrangements and the policy was one bright spot in a largely troubling report.
When the school was first placed into special measures there were concerns that “all aspects of the school” had declined and senior leaders showed “a lamentable lack of ambition” for pupils.
Inspector Steve Bentham spent two days at the Wigan Street school last month to check on its progress.
And he found leaders and managers were “not taking effective action” towards removing special measures, the school’s improvement plan was “not fit for purpose” and the school would not be able to appoint newly-qualified teachers.
Mr Bentham wrote: “The pace of improvement at Holy Family had not been rapid enough to remedy the weaknesses identified at the last inspection.
“Poor leadership has led to confusion among staff and a series of false starts to school improvement.
“Leaders have stumbled to implement necessary changes to the curriculum and to the quality of teaching and learning.
“Consequently there are too few signs of recovery.”
He said there was no school improvement plan and recommended reviews of governance and use of pupil premium funding had not been carried out.
Progress against the local authority’s statement of action was said to be “too slow”.
Ofsted reported that pupils’ progress remained below national expectations by the end of key stage two in reading and “significantly below” in maths.
There had been improvements to the progress and standards they achieved in writing by the end of year six, though it was still low.
Many teachers did not set the right level of challenge for pupils of different abilities and leaders “lacked the ability to draw the curriculum together and effect positive changes to teaching and learning”.
But Mr Bentham found “the tide appears to be turning”, with the appointment of executive headteacher Janice Taberner who had already “taken impressive action to steady the ship” since her appointment in November.
The inspector wrote: “The new headteacher, supported well by the deputy headteacher, has quickly won the trust and confidence of governors, staff and pupils.
“There is now a renewed determination to embrace change at the school and there is a sense that staff are ready to rise to the challenge.”
The governing body had been strengthened, action had been taken to improve safeguarding and there was a “more stable staffing structure”.
He said pupils felt safe and they liked new arrangements for entering school in the morning and being collected at the end of the day. The changes saw most parents excluded from the school grounds after incidents of “unacceptable language” and “threatening behaviour” between parents and even towards children.
Headteacher Mrs Taberner welcomed the findings, adding: “I am pleased that the report recognises the rapid progress made in the short time I have been in place and I am confident that progress can be maintained.
“The staff and governors are pleased the report also recognises the safeguarding measures that have been implemented have had a great effect.
“The staff, parents and children are working hard together to improve outcomes for the pupils of Holy Family School.”
Alan Lindsay, Wigan Council’s assistant director for education, said: “The council will continue to work closely with Holy Family Catholic Primary School and the Liverpool Archdiocese. Following a period of instability last year we are confident the school is heading in the right direction.
“We have every confidence in the executive headteacher’s leadership and all staff in the school are fully committed to making the rapid and necessary improvements that will create a much brighter future for the whole school and most importantly its pupils.”