Former head teacher slams Ofsted over Tenbury High School

Stuart Cooke, former headteacher at Tenbury High School, a specialist science and mathematics college, is pictured alongside his predecessor Adrian Price.Picture by Adrian Kibbler.

Stuart Cooke, former headteacher at Tenbury High School, a specialist science and mathematics college, is pictured alongside his predecessor Adrian Price.Picture by Adrian Kibbler.

First published in News

FORMER head teacher Stuart Cooke has launched a blistering attack on the decision of the education watchdog Ofsted to place Tenbury High School in special measures.

He took early retirement last summer after 15 years as head and believes that the school has been treated badly and is paying a penalty for not taking what he considers the softer BTec route.

“The inspectors noted that pupils enter the school with broadly average ability and leave with average outcomes,” said Mr Cooke.

“They also observed that the school has a curriculum composed mainly of GCSEs and that the average grade achieved is a C.

"However, they did not also point out that the school’s performance for ‘GCSEs only’ was significantly better than other schools in 2011 and 2012 and that it was better than other schools in 2013.

“Some schools have jumped on the BTec bandwagon wholeheartedly, realising that pupils following BTec courses are virtually guaranteed grade C passes or above regardless of their ability.

"But Tenbury High School has not gone down this line and now appears to be paying the price for offering a broad, high quality curriculum.”

He also says that the inspectors made no mention of the situation in the summer of 2012 when the school was badly hit by the change in the goalposts for the marking of English exams – action described by the High Court as legal but ‘unfair.’

“During the inspection 18 of the 26 lessons observed were judged to be good or outstanding, with almost all of the remaining lessons being satisfactory,” said Mr Cooke.

“Yet the inspectors were critical of the standard of teaching in the school. If this is the case, I suspect that a lot of decent other schools can expect trouble from Ofsted in years to come.

“Regarding the behaviour and safety of the pupils, the inspectors noted in their report that the behaviour of the pupils was good.

“The school’s attendance rates are much higher and exclusion rates much lower, than national averages – yet because their results were not considered to be good enough behaviour and safety was recorded as requiring improvement, despite the fact that the behaviour of pupils has been judged to be good or outstanding in every other Ofsted report since 2000.”

He added that every Ofsted inspection since 2000 had judged the school’s management and leadership as good or outstanding.

“I am convinced that in many respects Tenbury High is a good school and I would like to pass on to the pupils, parents and staff my very best wishes for the future,” Mr Cooke concluded.

“Over the years Tenbury High has built up a reputation as a caring and inclusive community. Because of this, many pupils with special educational needs or who are experiencing difficult personal circumstances have chosen to come to the school.

“However, by their very nature, some of these pupils have a tendency to underachieve – but this is not taken into account by Ofsted when looking at the school’s statistics.”

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