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Senior staff say standards are already being improved after Samuel Ward Academy in Haverhill is downgraded by Ofsted from 'outstanding' to 'requires improvement'

Steps are already being taken at a Haverhill secondary school to get it back on track after Ofsted inspectors deemed that it ‘requires improvement’ in every area.

The report, made public this week by the education watchdog, follows a period of seven years of Samuel Ward Academy being rated as an ‘outstanding’ school.

While the report says that teaching standards and pupils’ behaviour ‘are too variable’ and that ‘high standards have failed to be maintained’, it also points out that the loss of 30 teaching staff in one year and ‘frequent changes of head teacher’ (five in four years) have ‘left the school in a fragile state’.

The report praises the work already being done by headteacher Andy Hunter, who only took up his post in December, and other senior staff to get things back on track.

Samuel Ward Academy headteacher Andy Hunter (8103447)
Samuel Ward Academy headteacher Andy Hunter (8103447)

Mr Hunter said: “I’ve made some great appointments for September, some really strong appointments in a number of subjects.

“We have been fully staffed this year
with a mixture of long-term and supply staff but what I want to do is build a highly skilled permanent staff which we are confident we will do.

“The willingness of the staff to get on board and the willingness of the students to get on board and the support that I’m getting from parents and the community who were really positive; it makes what might be a difficult job easier when you’ve got the same shared goals.

“The report is very clear. We know what we have to do and we know how to do it.

“The staff have the confidence of the students and I think the school has the confidence of the large majority of parents.

“The report serves to illustrate what we have done so far and that we are on the right track.

“It doesn’t give us anything new to focus on, I think, because there is nothing new in the report that we didn’t know about already.”

As the parent of a child who is a Year 6 pupil,Mr Hunter added: “I won’t let anyone else’s child down any more than I would expect anyone else to let my child down.

“It’s not just about ticking boxes, it is personal.

“We are about to move into a new building. We’ve had a fresh start and that’s going to be very exciting.”

Tim Coulson, the chief executive of the Unity Schools Partnership, of which Samuel Ward Academy is a part, said the content of Ofsted’s report had not come as a surprise to anyone at the school or the trust.

He said: “People who know the school know there have been a couple of years when things have not been great at the school. it’s not been as happy a place as it should be really.

“I think for a whole variety of reasons the school had too many changes.”

Mr Coulson, who has been chief executive for 18 months, said the trust now wanted to have senior staff, including Mr Hunter, that would be there for a number of years in order to offer more stability and to take pupils all the way through their time at the school.

He added: “I think that will get the school on a much more solid basis.

“There are now things in place that need to be embedded and people in place and they need to be taken forward.

“It was a very difficult situation in the school. The thing that really encourages me is that staff have moved on, there’s now a much more upbeat feeling among the staff.

“A year ago the staff were not happy and they had every reason to not be very happy.”

One of the current Year 11 students at Samuel Ward, who has been in the school since year 7, gave his view anonymously on the situation at the school.

He said: "Having six head teachers through the years has been very challenging on the pupils as we are constantly adapting to new policies and systems.

"This has had a negative impact on our learning. I think the report is a fair representation of the schools current position.

"Behaviour in the classroom has worsened with the lack of clear leadership. "After over 30 teachers left at the end of last year morale is at an all time low and students feel let down by the school as it is our grades that will suffer."

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