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Major turnaround for failing Guildford secondary school.

5 minute read
Major turnaround for failing Guildford secondary school.

Published at 6:08am 12th September 2018. (Updated at 6:52am 12th September 2018)

A secondary school in Guildford has been awarded the second highest Ofsted rating - just months after it was found to be failing.

Kings College in Southway was rated 'Inadequate' and put into special measures after an inspection in December 2017.

Now, just 18 months later,  Ofsted has rated it 'Good' overall.

Head teacher Alistair McKenzie told Eagle he believes it is one of the fastest climbs in secondary school ratings in such a short period of time countrywide. 

He puts it down to the commitment of staff, students and parents, who fought to raise standards, as well as help from the broader community, including the Guildford Education Partnership (GEP Academies), with the support of Guildford Borough Council, the University of Surrey and the Royal Grammar School Guildford.

Mr McKenzie had been in the job for just eight weeks when Ofsted inspectors visited on December 6 and 7 2016 - he describes it as "a baptism of fire for any new head, it would be fair to say."

In an interview this week, he told Eagle what had gone wrong in the lead up to the inspection: "They (the inspectors) felt as they were walking around that the quality of work students were producing in lessons wasn't of sufficient strength, they felt student behaviour was patchy, and that as a result students were not making the progress they should be."

He said in the aftermath staff, students and parents rallied together: "Whenever anyone makes a judgement, it can make people feel bad about themselves. But we very quickly as a collective group decided we wanted to change that... It gives you an incredible sense of urgency and togetherness, that you are all making a journey together because it is so important to everyone."

He told us the biggest challenge facing the school body "was a mindset. If you've been told by people that you're not good enough, it's very hard to change practices - both teachers and students - in order to be doing things that are more effective."

"But I have fantastic teachers and fantastic children here, and they just needed confidence, and change, and they wanted change that allowed them to be more successful."

The school went on to implement big changes, such as doing away with five one hour lessons a day, which Mr McKenzie said did not leave enough time for learning as students had to spend time walking to different classes,  and replacing them with three 100 minute lessons.

He said students completed a lot more work in that time, and felt like they were learning a lot more - which improved their engagement and effort levels, and ultimately their outcomes.

Teachers too felt the benefit, as they were able to spend more time with students and give feedback.

Another aspect of improvement the school worked on was behaviour. The school drew up a list of seven non-negotiable requirements, including uniform rules, and each week reported to students in assembly how they were doing.

He said students noticed how incidents were decreasing quite rapidly - which in turn made them feel good about themselves.

And he said they focussed on the quality of teaching: "We stopped testing children constantly and gave space to teach them. So we only assess them twice a year.  It means far less time is spent worrying about what marks people got, and more time is spent on the quality of work produced."

He said it had an immediate impact: "It felt like a different school, very quickly."

kings college Guildford

The school had another inspection in July, during the final week of term, where they found it a very different place.

Mr McKenzie said the best thing for him during that visit was the number of pupils who went up to the inspectors and told them about how well they were doing and how proud they were of their school.

The report issued afterwards rated it 'Good' overall, commending the school for its leadership, the quality of teaching, and the personal development, welfare and behaviour of its students.

Mr McKenzie said he is hugely proud of his school and the children and staff: "I'm mostly proud of what I see walking around the school every day, and seeing the work the children are doing....the external validation is important but it's what happens every day in school that really matters."








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