02 January 2020

Richard Dunne: "The Trust has a lot to answer for"

At the end of the Autumn term 2019, the chair of the board of Ashley's governors, Nigel Stapleton, sent round a circular. In it, he said:

"The 2019 Key Stage 2 results for the school, as predicted by the SLT and LGC were disappointing and outcomes for the pupils from Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 2 were not as expected. In response to this, in October, the GST Board served the school with a ‘Notice to Improve’."

[the SLT is the school's Senior Leadership Team, the LGC is the Local Governance Committee, aka the governors and the GST is the Good Shepherd Trust]

On 15 Dec, the GST's chair stated: "the performance at Ashley has slipped considerably (since 2016) so as to be a long way below that of our higher performing schools (the relevant data for 2019 is on our website)." [read the data here]

On 1 January 2020, Richard Dunne asked the A4T group to pass on his response to Mr Stapleton's circular. It was sent out in an email to those who subscribe to the A4T email. I have copied and pasted it (with permission) below in full:

"Dear Parents and Carers,

Below is a response to the data provided by the GST at the end of last term, including their criticisms of Ashley School’s data, which does not take into account a number of factors such as the range of learning and behavioural needs in each cohort of children.

Starting at the beginning, the school’s Early Years GLD (Good Level of Development) data for last summer placed the school 2nd in the Trust with 84% achieving GLD. As everyone knows, some children will not achieve GLD for a number of reasons, so it is important to be cautious about putting too much of an emphasis on this data, particularly as the children are still only 4 and 5 years old.

The Year 1 phonics data put the school 1st in the Trust with 91% passing this screening test. The teachers did a great job working so well with the children to achieve such high levels of success. Once again, if a child does not achieve the pass mark, there will be particular reasons for this, and they will continue to get good support in Year 2 to ensure they achieve the pass mark at the end of Year 2.

The Year 2 SATs results last summer placed the school 1st in Reading, 1st in Writing and 1st in Maths at expected levels of attainment. The greater depth attainment was also very strong with the school coming 1st in Reading and Maths. The results in Writing put the school 3rd.

This is great news, but it does create a challenge for the school because it means that even if the children do incredibly well in Year 6, their progress will not be as strong as those schools performing at a lower level in Year 2 as they cannot make so much progress. In simple terms, if the top mark in Year 6 is 10 and they score 6 in Year 2, they will not make as much progress as those who score 3 or 4 or 5 in Year 2. Ashley School has had this challenge for years. Even in 2018, when the Year 6 children’s results were in the top 10% nationally and the best in the GST across the board, the progress data was only just above average.

The school knew that last year’s Year 6 cohort had a higher than usual level of need, both from a learning perspective and in terms of behaviour. This happens sometimes. Not only was the number of SEND children higher than usual, but it was an extremely unusual cohort in terms of child carers, i.e. children who have to support a parent or sibling with needs, as the percentage was particularly high. This can have a significant impact on their learning in school. There were also several children who arrived in the school post Year 2 (around 15%) and a good number had high levels of learning needs, i.e. they came to the school at a very low level of attainment and this put a lot of pressure on the school to push them to achieve at the expected level.

The school set very realistic targets for these children and shared these targets with both the Governors and the Trust. The school wanted everyone to be clear that the results would not be as strong as the previous year, but that was understandable, bearing in mind the needs outlined above. Here are the predictions and the actual results. As you can see, the school actually surpassed their predictions in Writing and Maths, but the results were a little down in Reading, possibly because the Year 6 teachers understandably had put slightly more of an emphasis on Writing and Maths. Reading is usually the school’s strongest subject.

Year 6 Key Stage 2 Predictions and Results for 2019

Expected Level of Attainment

Reading Prediction 86%                    Reading Result 80%
Writing Prediction 71%                      Writing Result 76%
Maths Prediction 83%                        Maths Result 88%

Greater Depth Higher Level Attainment

Reading Prediction 40%                    Reading Result 33%
Writing Prediction 25%                      Writing Result 27%
Maths Prediction 27%                        Maths Result 32%

For information, the Year 6’s Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling score of 90% was the 2nd best in the Trust. The school’s view is that this cohort did very well, bearing in mind its starting points and the very low levels of attainment of a good number of children, who came to the school late and whose data had a very negative impact on the progress data.

The Trust was very aware of this high level of need in Year 6 and it was pointed out to the Governors in every one of their termly meetings. Last September, however, the Trust still went ahead and took out Mrs Stevens, who was the Teaching and Learning Lead at Ashley School. As parents and carers know, she was taken out for 50% of the time in the Autumn Term and 100% of the time in the Spring and Summer Terms. I was also asked to support another GST school throughout the year. This was extremely unhelpful, bearing in mind the needs of the cohort.

I hope this information gives a more balanced view of the school’s data. Importantly, if the school’s leadership is undermined as it was last year, it makes performing well more of a challenge. Having said that, the data overall for 2018-19 was strong across the school. It is not all about data anyway as Ofsted is making very clear in its new inspection framework. Schools are being judged much more now on the richness of their curriculum, something that is a real strength of the school.

It is the greatest irony that the school is being given much more support this year.  This was something I highlighted repeatedly last year, but no action was taken to address this concern.

It is interesting to compare the difference between the leadership team this January and last. Last January the school had a Headteacher, an Assistant Head and a part-time Trust Business Manager. This January there will be a Headteacher, a part-time Deputy Head three days a week, two Assistant Heads, an Office Manager and a part-time Trust Business Manager. That is more than double the leadership resources. If the school had not been stripped of its senior resources last year, the results are likely to have been even stronger. In my honest opinion, the Trust has a lot to answer for.


Richard Dunne"

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