Burnley school embraces change to wow Ofsted inspectors

Despite being judged as inadequate just three years ago, a Burnley secondary school has overcome all odds to earn a 'Good' rating from Ofsted, with staff and students alike having 'embraced change,' according to the Headteacher.

Thursday, 26th July 2018, 2:52 pm
Updated Thursday, 26th July 2018, 5:12 pm
Coal Clough staff and alumni at their recent leaving celebration.

Since being taken over by the Education Partnership Trust in 2015 due to the previously mediocre standards at the school, Coal Clough Academy on Swindon Street has blossomed, with Headteacher Holly Clarke and her staff instigating a sea-change in the establishment's educational performance.

In spite of its classification as an Alternative Provision School catering for a majority of children who have been excluded from their previous schools, Coal Clough impressed during the mainstream Ofsted inspection to earn a 'Good' rating from the assessor.

"Looking back over the last twelve months, I feel an overwhelming sense of pride," said Holly. "I am passionate for the work that my staff have done; this last year the school has embraced change.

"The culture shift was difficult as the persistent poor behaviour, lack of respect, and significant weaknesses were ingrained," she added. "The nature of change had to be persistent and this was a difficult journey, pupils started to re-engage with education."

Offering students the chance to access a more tailored educational provision that is designed to get the best out of them, Coal Clough has classes of just 12 students each taught by two teachers, while mental health professionals are also available.

And the school's approach is working. The Ofsted inspectors raised the point that despite the children's specific requirements, they are thriving, saying: "Pupils who have complex social, emotional and mental health needs succeed... there has been a remarkable improvement in standards."

The report also highlighted the importance of interpersonal teacher-pupil communication, pointing out that: "Pupils told inspectors that they liked coming to school and that it was not like being at a mainstream school, which they described as ‘grim’. They said that they liked being treated as individuals and that adults were understanding and did not over-react."

With the report also highlighting the need for the school to focus on improving attendance amongst some students and to ensure that standards continue to rise, the job is not yet finished for Holly and her staff, but Coal Clough is now very much on the right path.

"We have worked together to ensure that the pupils are at the heart of every decision, that no pupil is overlooked, and that personalised approach to learning is pertinent in every decision we make at the school," Holly explained. "I am proud and confident that we are shaping futures, making dreams become reality, and allowing pupils to enjoy education once more."