Ofsted’s scathing report into troubled Blackpool school

Headteacher Tony Nicholson.
Headteacher Tony Nicholson.
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A troubled school has been blasted by inspectors again – just 12 months on from a damning report which plunged it into crisis.

Bispham High School “is not making enough progress towards the removal of special measures” after it was placed in the lowest category by Ofsted inspectors last year.

Bispham High School.

Bispham High School.

But on their most recent visit inspectors noted seeing students “truanting, smoking, kissing, swearing and filming on their mobile phones” as well as one group “refusing to follow instructions”.

They also witnessed pupils fighting and claimed teachers said behaviour among pupils had “noticeably deteriorated” in recent weeks.

The report, mandatory every four months for schools in the category of concern, also lists a catalogue of failings and outlines “serious concerns” regarding:

l Poor punctuality - highlighted by 70 children arriving late to school in one day

l Too many students showing a “complete lack of respect for authority”

l ‘All or most’ lessons interrupted by poor behaviour, principally due to teachers failure to plan lessons properly

l Pupils ran through school without regard for others and used ‘foul language’

l No effective policy to deal with bullying

l “Significant instability” due to staff redundancies and cover staff

l And, “exceptionally challenging circumstances” surrounding the school’s merger with Collegiate High School

The report said: “The IEB (Interim Executive Board) are spending a lot of time dealing with the very complex transition arrangements to merge the schools”.

The school was visited by Ofsted in January 2013 and told it had serious weaknesses surrounding pupil behaviour and safety and was inadequate for achievement of pupils, quality of teaching and leadership and management.

Since then it has been visited by inspectors on three more occasions and showed cause for optimism, with reports suggesting “reasonable progress towards the removal of special measures”.

But inspectors spent two days at the Bispham Road school on February 27 and 28, reporting seeing “unacceptable” behaviour including a fight between pupils, and inconsistent teaching and discipline from staff.

It said some older students had been moved back to the Collegiate site due to their bad behaviour.

It added staff have left through voluntary redundancy and others have lost their leadership positions.

Blackpool Council has supported school attendance by increasing the numbers of pupil welfare officers, providing three for Bispham and Collegiate high schools.

Staff are also being supported by behavioural experts to deal with incidents.

However, Ofsted said the local authority has failed to “directly monitor teaching and learning” since the last inspection.

The report follows a turbulent few weeks for the school which saw 40 pupils walk out of classes in protest over perceived failings in certain departments due to regular staff changes.

One 14-year-old pupil was excluded for two days for leading the protest but has now returned to school.


The Gazette revealed in December 2012 plans to merge Bispham and Collegiate high schools, in response to falling roll numbers at both schools and with a view to creating a new £10m academy on the Blackpool Old Road site.

Inspectors then visited Bispham High in January 2013, judging it to be inadequate in key areas and placing it in special measures.

The school’s headteacher Margaret Singleton and the school’s board of 12 governors quit the school just weeks after the report, saying they felt “backed into a corner” over the controversial merger plans.

An acting headteacher has been in place since and staff have been forced to reapply for jobs or take redundancy packages as part of a staffing restructure as the two schools continue the merger process.

Work has begun on redeveloping the site with the schools anticipated to be together there in 2015.


Bosses have said there is “no excuse” for low standards and that work is ongoing and unwavering to support the school.

Tony Nicholson, executive headteacher of Bispham High School, said: “There is no doubt that Bispham High School needs to undergo rapid and sustained improvement across the board.

“The senior leadership team knows what it needs to do and are trying to bring about positive change as quickly as possible.

“The disruptive behaviour highlighted in the report is completely unacceptable and I’m sure no parent wants to hear of their child’s education being affected by the minority.

“Bispham can and will improve both in terms of attainment and behaviour.” Coun Ivan Taylor, Blackpool Council cabinet member for children’s services, said: “This is clearly a disappointing report.

“While there are some positives to be drawn on including the positive projections for Year 11 GCSE results - arguably the ultimate goal for a school – there are many more negatives.

“As I have said previously the school is going through a transitional period with significant change taking place and this is undoubtedly a challenging time.

“However, that is no excuse for low standards and we continue to offer support to the school to help it improve. I want to reassure parents that the pupils remain our top priority.”


Teaching union representatives have said Bispham High School should not be in a position where it loses sight of good education, due to poor behaviour or time spent on the merger


Ros Homer, National Union of Teachers (NUT) representative for Blackpool, said: “What the report says has shocked me.

“Staff have been under constant pressure because of Ofsted and uncertainty about jobs.”

And John Girdley, Blackpool representative for the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), added: “If they’d been allowed to concentrate on improving, rather than the merger, things might have improved.”

Mrs Homer said she would now look to instigate a meeting between NUT officers and school bosses to look at how the union can support its members in the classroom.


Despite a series of damning reports Bispham High School last year recorded its highest ever GCSE results.

And Ofsted today said students are set to make better progress again.

After visiting the school last month inspectors noted the positives of their visit, including “good progress” in lessons such as dance, ICT, PE, travel and tourism, music and maths.

In a Year 11 music class the lesson was “clear and purposeful” thanks to the teacher’s “excellent subject knowledge”.

And in maths and humanities leadership and management are strengths for the school.

Inspectors added: “Many members of staff are working relentlessly to ensure the school succeeds”.

Executive headteacher Tony Nicholson said: “The recent Ofsted inspection has highlighted many positives which can be built upon.

“Maths and humanities, in particular, has been identified as a good example of leadership and management and it is expected this summer will show ongoing improvement in our GCSE results.”


Parents of current Bispham High School pupils said they were not surprised by the contents of the report.

Vicky Teece, whose whose daughter Kaitlynn, 11, is in Year Seven, said: “Something definitely needs to change.

“The whole school is a mess at the moment - the lack of stability is a major concern. If nothing changes, everyone will end up changing schools.

“But I don’t blame the teachers at all. They have just been thrown into this situation.

“Everybody is concerned about the school and we just don’t know what to do for the best.”

But she said the recent pupil mutiny had made an impact, after her daughter was given three pieces of homework to do this weekend.

She added: “When she began it was a couple of pieces a night but the last few weeks she wasn’t getting any.

“Last week, since the children walked out, it has all changed.”

Mum Denise Higgs, who has two daughters at the school, said she was optimistic the school will turn a corner soon.

She added: “I don’t like what’s going on at the moment. Things just aren’t good enough right now.

“It’s awkward for the teachers and the kids as well so hopefully things will start improving soon.”