Monday, 10 February 2014

Prudhoe Community High School

Last autumn Prudhoe Community High School failed an Ofsted and was placed in Special Measures. You can read the Ofsted report here. Also subsequent correspondence. In particular the report of 14th January 2014 which appears to have precipated Dr Iain Shaw's departure as Head from 31st January 2014.

I have shown some reluctance to make comment. For reasons which bear little relationship to this crisis and reflect a decision we wanted our daughter to make, our child is at Queen Elizabeth High School, Hexham. We are not parents, I am not a politician, I may be a commentator but I am not a schools expert although I do slot a PGCE into my CV and my wife has read very many Ofsted reports professionally. She was taught a mantra "prepare for the next Ofsted, the day after the last report arrives".

Over recent days I can honestly say people have taken me aside in the street to air their concerns, so I do feel a need to make some comment. The biggest problem as I see it is the multi-faceted nature of the challenge.

I would identify six issues
The Ofsted
The New Building and Academy
The County Council
Middle Schools
The Fuse
Communications & Governance

The Ofsted: the school has badly failed an Ofsted and whatever one thinks of the process, it is what is there, it is in many respects a tick box formula and the content of both the Ofsted and the 14th January letter cannot be ignored - the tenor of the 14th January letter is that this has happened.

The New Building and Academy. A large area of the challenge is that a new school is desperately needed. Neither of the two major parties have exactly served Prudhoe well over this although the current MP has tried very hard. In the pipeline there is money for a new school but is that imperilled by the current crisis? No imperillment says Councillor Anne Dale.  It has been said often including by the Chair of Governors in the Journal that the usual outcome to Special Measures is a change to an academy or closure. It must be borne in mind that this is not a large secondary school. Closure does not really seem realistic. The nearest secondary Charles Thorpe in Ryton is in  a different authority. Ponteland and Hexham are not straightforward to reach. An academy which became a new school? Open hands? Who would do that? Emmanuel from Gateshead? Is the town ready for a religious foundation? I am a Christian but I would not want my child taught Creationism as anything other than a myth. That has been an issue in the past there.

The prospect of a new school also interacts with the county service which as part of the set of inspections of last autumn was judged badly by Ofsted and then the question arises:  how do Middle Schools fit into all this change? How do you plan to build a new school without knowing the future of Middle Schools? Whether they stay or not directly impacts on what you build into a new High School. Unless you want a load of portakabin classrooms springing up around the new school. I predict that the fate of the local Middle Schools and any new secondary school in Prudhoe is intimately linked.

At the Prudhoe School itself there are two specific areas that cross my radar. The highly innovative Fuse Centre which should be a pride and joy turned out to have a very specific negative role in the Ofsted report. Funnily enough the Fuse is where a sense of unease started several years ago. In turn these stories fuel a debate about how the Hexham Courant reports Prudhoe which neatly links to............

Communications:  It does damage to read  at
"Ofsted Inspectors will be visiting school on Tuesday 22 October 2013, and Wednesday 23 October 2013.
Their report will be published on our Ofsted page when complete". And this is not updated as of 10th February and there is no live link to the Ofsted report. Reflect: completely new people may be thinking of moving into the new housing estates in Prudhoe and they will expect accurate information.

Whatever the rights and wrongs and outcomes of the situation, I will say the following and hold it as pure common sense. We are in the 21st century, people expect websites and facebooks to be accurate and informed from public institutions and we expect open-ness. If action plans are published on a school website there is no need for the Journal or the Courant to be an interface. For my money as a matter of urgency the school website needs to come clean about the Ofsted situation. It also needs to publish a clear and accurate list of governors. I could not find that today. And in the case of the chair of governors, a list of all similar public offices previously held.

(Some reading this will wish to note this parallel story in Cumbria).


Last Monday Deborah Reeman from Morpeth King Edward VI (open Leadership Letter PDF) school arrived as a new headteacher for Prudhoe CHS. Over Thurday /Friday this week a combination of Messrs Gove/Opperman (our MP) announced that the school would be rebuilt. The exact phrase of "within two years" appeared in the Hexham Courant. Other coverage is in The Journal and Guy Opperman's own blog. What strikes me as the important matter of what year's the rebuild is for (and thus how Middle Schools are affected) has not been stated.


Two key local politicians make it clear the new school build is like for like and no changes in the Prudhoe School pyramid for Middle Schools follow.


The school's woes continue and the entire governing body have resigned en masse. OFSTED remain dis-satisfied.
The chair of governors Eileen Burt has no comment to make.  The latest Section 8 report (May) which precipitated  this is available here .