Headteacher’s pledge as inspection slams school

Troubled times: Montgomery High School. Below - headteacher Simon Brennand
Troubled times: Montgomery High School. Below - headteacher Simon Brennand
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‘Not good enough.’

That is the stark and simple verdict on more than a quarter of teachers at a troubled Blackpool school.

Simon Brennand, headteacher Montgomery High School

Simon Brennand, headteacher Montgomery High School

It was in May this year that inspectors from watchdog Ofsted placed Montgomery High School into special measures, giving it a rating of “inadequate”.

Barely four months later they were back, part of an interim inspection which is standard for schools in special measures.

And a new report has highlighted a raft of ongoing concerns at the school. The report says: “All senior and middle leaders spoken with... fully accept that standards in the school are unacceptably low”,

It adds: “Some feel standards have slipped due to an element of complacency and all agree the quality of teaching is just not good enough”, and “according to the school’s records, there are currently 26 teachers in the school whose day-to-day quality of teaching is not good enough”, the report found.

But headteacher Simon Brennand has today hit back at claims of “complacency” in school, claiming a colleague’s comments could have been taken out of context by inspectors.

He told The Gazette: “I’m on record saying there is no complacency, I don’t agree with that statement because it’s too important for us to continually improve what we do.

“I believe that comment came from a colleague being reflective. We are totally committed to improving the school. We are seeking to improve results.”

The interim inspection also said the school’s drop in GCSE results this year “confirms that assessment data is inaccurate”.

In 2014, 53 per cent of pupils achieved at least five GCSEs at A*to C grades including English and maths.

Now education bosses have said while the report is “disappointing”, work is underway to address issues raised, including professional development for the school’s staff.

Since the original inspection in May nine teachers have left and another nine have been brought in. The school’s governing body has also been dissolved.

When asked about the nine members of staff who have left, Mr Brennand said there could be many reasons why someone would leave their job.

It is the latest Fylde coast school to join the Fylde Coast Academy Trust (FCAT), a collection of schools which aims to share best practice and drive up standards, along with Unity Academy and Aspire Academy, led by Blackpool Sixth Form and Hodgson Academy, Poulton.

Mr Brennand said: “We’re continually working to improve the quality of teaching.

“We have got specific plans to make learning more engaging and more interactive and refining schemes of how good feedback is given. It’s fair to say teaching is a high pressure occupation.”

Union bosses have said they stand ready to support any members at the school.

John Girdley, Blackpool representative for the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), which 40 of the school’s 90 teachers are members of, said he was unable to comment but would be “monitoring” the situation and will be “wanting to support members if need be”.

Council bosses have also said they will support Montgomery as much as possible, despite it being an academy, meaning it is publicly funded but not run by the local authority.

Coun Ivan Taylor, cabinet member for schools, said: “It is shame. We will certainly support the school in any way we can.

“I will be holding meetings with the school, hopefully, to discuss the way forward in terms of the school and its relationship with the authority.

“I could reawaken the old academy versus council-run argument, and that’s something people might have concerns about, but it doesn’t help the children who are there right now.

Better

“Montgomery doesn’t suffer from some of the issues of deprivation other Blackpool schools, so it ought to be doing better than it is.

“It’s obviously disappointing when one of Blackpool’s schools, especially one with Montgomery’s history, is not doing well.”

Mr Brennand joined the school in 2010 when it was considered “satisfactory” by Ofsted.

He oversaw a rise to a “good” rating in 2011 and it converted to academy status in August 2012.

But in June the most recent report found the school to be “inadequate”.

Under the current Ofsted framework a school can be outstanding, good, requiring improvement (formerly satisfactory) or inadequate.

Mr Brennand said some positive feedback was given in last week’s report, which school bosses are now building on, he added.

He said: “They did make a number of positive comments about the school and improvement that is underway. We are seeing strong evidence of improvement.

“The first monitoring inspection was quite early to see the full impact of our strategy [for improvement].

“We still have some of the best results in Blackpool on some measures, our 95 per cent whole school attendance is the highest in Blackpool. And our 83 per cent pass rate in English GCSE this year was the best we’ve ever had.”

FCAT plan to turn ‘failing’ school around

Felicity Greeves, principal of Blackpool Sixth Form, said the Fylde Coast Academy Trust would focus on four key areas to turn things around at Montgomery – bringing in experienced leaders, focus on accountability for success, support teachers to improve rapidly, and provide business support to allow senior staff to focus on teaching and learning.

Ms Greeves, who visited the school last week, said she would be working along side teachers in a bid to improve standards at the school

She : “We support the school so heads can focus on teaching, learning and behaviour.

“It’s about human resources, people who are good at their jobs going in there, making sure learning is fast both by children and teachers, it’s working with these teachers to help them improve.”