Inspirational head has turned round school

Just over a year ago I wrote taking you to task for highlighting Ofsted’s damning report on Lowerhouse Junior School on your front page.

Tuesday, 15th July 2014, 10:00 pm
Photo Neil Cross Head Claire Holgate celebrating the latest results at Lowerhouse Junior School, Burnley,with Deacon Greenwood, Lucy Thompson, Fraser Bannister and Lewis Jackson

Suffice to say that, on reflection, some of Osted’s findings did warrant improvement in quite a few areas, a fact that led myself and several other people to offer our services on the governing body. Thus what I write now is from an internal perspective and close experience of the situation.

That this school has gone from special measures to good in a year is an outstanding achievement, as anybody working in education can testify. Many people working together within various capacities have brought this about with initial help from local education authority personnel and on-loan staff with expertise in certain areas.

Also, although there has been some staff movement involving resignation or illness, the teachers appointed have joined with those already there in a massive undertaking to improve standards in all those major areas outlined by Ofsted. Numerous courses have been attended by teachers and assistants, leading to major overhauls or revamping in the teaching with emphasis on guided reading, spelling, maths and homework.

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Displays around school are a joy and have to be seen to be believed. Pupils have taken their school’s journey to heart and there is maximum enthusiasm and effort evident in so many areas. Little wonder each successive Ofsted follow-up inspection has moved the school further away from the perilous situation of a year ago. Staff, children and governors are part of this thrilling and noteworthy success, thoroughly deserving this time of your front page headlines.

On a slightly different note, but all part of the intense pressure such a report puts upon a school, I must mention Academy status and the intolerable and at time distressing coercion put on the governing body and headteacher to take such status on board. I give no details as they are private to the school and head. But having been in teaching for almost 30 years and in positions of authority in my career, I had never experienced such out and out stress-producing hassle before. How the headteacher coped with all this is beyond belief, allied to rallying the school around herself in step-by-step improvement.

Last but by no means least, a word about the headteacher. Lowerhouse Junior School was extremely fortunate that Mrs Holgate was at the helm to take on board the fight to come out of special measures. Always she thanks her staff, the parents and carers, her hard-working children, governors and anybody else who deserves a pat on the back. But none of this coming together would have happened without her leadership.

This hard-working inspirational lady is the leader in every sense of the word. How many hours she has put in must be incalculable. Her school, our school, has reached Ofsted’s “good” because of her total commitment to the cause. Her drive and energy has been outstanding and has taken her team along with her. Her next aim is that Lowerhouse Junior School will gain Ofsted’s outstanding grade in the not too distant future. Hopefully it will happen, for she and her staff deserve no less.

David Etherington

Lowerhouse Crescent, Burnley