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Calder High

From Julie C

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Lots of rumours rumbling round the Valley about the upcoming Ofsted report - whatever the findings are in the end - the most important thing is that the children get the best education in a happy school - it means we all - parents, friends, grandparents, pupils, staff, governors, 'the community' - need to be positive as well as critical, and take responsibility for what we can do to get involved, communicate our ideas, volunteer our expertise and make it work.

From Joe Ridley

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

It seems that the rumours were true. Some would argue that the report isn't as bad as it could/should be. And this despite the teachers' best efforts - my children reported of being taught in a completely different way during the inspection and was tempted at one point to ask why 'we don't normally do stuff like this'.

I witness on a daily basis that smoking is common place around the entrance of the school and am disheartened to hear that it goes on within the grounds.

I write here to express my frustration with the people who wish to make excuses for the poor performance of our schools. The Ofsted inspectors are professional people with a view to assessing the school as a whole. If they report failings at the school, we as parents should be concerned and immediately demand improvements from the school to deliver the education that our children deserve. We should not make excuses and claim that Ofsted 'have an agenda' or other such nonsense. A brief chat with my children regularly exposes terrible failings in their day to day education and I for one welcome an Ofsted report (2 actually) that tells the truth.

From Jenny B

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Joe, I don't know if you have read the posts on Riverside and OFSTED but I would say your comments could be in some ways, applied to both reports.

I too have a child at CHS, I am an ex CHS pupil myself, I think it is a sad day when people decide to criticise the inspection system rather than face facts.

I have been concerned about the situation at CHS for some time. My children, like yours deserve better.

I have therefore asked in the other thread, who we believe to give us the truth? The schools and their governors or OFSTED?

We as parents, should be very concerned about both reports and not be derided from voicing those concerns by people who wish to shoot the messengers be they OFSTED or me.

From Graham Barker

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The key difference between the CHS and Riverside reports is that Riverside criticism came out of the blue and contradicts the experience of most parents. The CHS report did not come as a surprise and is probably milder than many parents expected.

CHS may get worse before it gets better. In the opinion of at least some pupils, the behaviour problems date from the arrival of the new head teacher. She imposed a string of new uniform and conduct rules, many of which are resented as petty and unreasonable. More are said to be imminent. The aim may be to increase respect for the school, but in trying to command respect rather than earn it, all the school may end up with is a vicious circle.

From Stephen M

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The behaviour problems at Calder High School certainly predate the arrival of the new head teacher by several years. They predate the whole Miss Rusty fandango too. That was a symptom of a borderline out of control school, not a cause...

I think there's a complex interplay of factors at work here which include - the state of the school building (it's a depressing place to be), inconsistent application of behaviour policies by staff, social issues that affect every school in the country (lack of boundaries at home, a generation that get lots of stuff - but little time or attention from parents who are themselves stressed by demands of work, mortgages etc), the existence of grammar schools which effectively make every other school in the district a secondary modern, and a curriculum which is frankly kinda boring and geared towards the needs of employers rather than towards developing the creativity of the students.

I think there is also a problem with burned out teachers - formerly inspirational teachers who are too tired to do it any properly more, but have nowhere else to go.

And of course there is a dope problem in Hebden/Mytholmroyd. There is. Bored teenagers getting quietly off their faces on weed that is much stronger than it used to be in our day, with all the problems of memory-loss, time-keeping, lack of drive, and death of ambition that prolonged dope use brings. hard to get Astars in GCSEs if you're monged out most weekends.

There may also be a political dimension to the report - an attempt to shift schools towards the academy model. And the rules have changed since the previous reports too. What was once good, is now merely 'satisfactory'. And 'satisfactory' itself has had its meaning to change to mean, in effect, 'unsatisfactory' (We need a new George Orwell to make a proper mockery of all this!)

I also think the management of the school has been coasting for years. Letting parents pick up the slack in a way that impacts most unfairly on those bright kids who don't have the good fortune to have parents with the patience, energy and knowledge to properly enhance their childrens' all round education.

This coasting was revealed in the results of recent years, and the report merely underlines that.

I can't speak about Riverside because I don't know the school (I do know Calder High) but if there are failings in the primary schools, then it's hardly surprising that you get problems of behaviour in the secondary schools too

It might also be true that a new head at Calder High has tried to impose a vision on the school without working with the teachers or the students first, without trying to get 'buy in' (The report contained some very cumbersome attempts to make it appear that despite all the failings mentioned, somehow the new management were making things better - these had all the inky hallmarks of hasty, last minute redrafting. Trying to present a damning report t in a way that somehow didn't damn the leadership. If I had to guess I'd say the report writers had been leant on - which would account for the delay in the report coming out. As I say, this is a guess.)

It'll take a while to sort out. I would say that it'll be five years beginning with the new intake of year 7 in September, and even then, without serious attention to the fabric of the building, behaviour will remain a struggle.

In the mean time getting into a positive dialogue with the community on side will be a start. It is kind of shocking that there is no Parent Teachers and Friends Association. Isn't it?

From Christopher Reason

Thursday, 8 March 2012

I'd echo Graham Barker's comments particularly his observation that respect has to be earned rather than demanded.

The rot set in with the quite unnecessary and heavy handed treatment of Miss Rusty. The school's never recovered from it.

I'm led to believe that at the root of the problem lies not so much with the head but with the board of governors that appointed her.

I remember interviewing David Scott some years ago [the last head but one for those who don't remember]. He was an open and original man with great charm. The school had a really purposeful air to it back in those days. Now the only purpose seems to be in insisting that the kids don't wear their jackets in class (no matter how cold it is).

It's all very sad. My son can't wait to leave.

From Ian M

Thursday, 8 March 2012

I totally disagree!The mistaken belief that schoolchildren and teachers are equal and that teachers must earn the respect of their pupils is why we have a generation of youths that believes the world owes them a living.
Be creative, have an opinion and input, but from the outset, children must respect the authority of the school and the teaching staff. It is the responsibility of the parents to instill that respect in their children and if they do not they are failing to prepare them for their future lives.
If it is a rule of the school that coats should not be worn in class, then abide by that rule. I was always told by my granny I wouldn't feel the benifit anyway if I didn't take it off

From Joe Ridley

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Yes Jenny I did read the other thread and was dismayed to read the comments criticising your views - I have heard similar elsewhere regarding this subject, hence my previous message. Graham, although I respect your view I think it would be very unfair to blame the new head teacher for poor behaviour of students including racist comments, belligerence to staff, misbehaviour during break times and smoking within the grounds. I can promise you these things have been going on for a very long time.
Whilst we make excuses and try to explain away the poor behaviour standards of a significant group of students, our children will continue to receive a substandard education. I support the head teacher in her attempts to raise the levels of behaviour and respect at the school and dearly hope she makes some progress in that direction before my children leave.

From David Telford

Thursday, 8 March 2012

I don't have kids at the school but I think there is always a temptation to blame a school when the blame is a little closer to home.

If your child is a budding footballer, you wouln't leave his development in just the hands of the local school, you'd take him trainig, go running with him, practice practice practice. It's the same with academic subjects, your little bundle of joy is only at school for 7 hours a day, that leaves 17 hours to be influenced by parents. If the children don't have the right attitude, smoke too much, dring too much and inject too much, it's unlikely to be the teacher's fault.

From Dave H

Thursday, 8 March 2012

As a parent of a child at Calder High, I was particularly peeved by the letter to parents sent out by the school following the fairly damning Ofsted. Bare in mind, the scores the school were given we all 3s and 4s (Inspection grades: 1 is outstanding, 2 is good, 3 is satisfactory and 4 is inadequate). The 'headline assessment' from Ofted said: 'Her Majesty's Chief Inspector is of the opinion that this school requires significant improvement, because it is performing significantly less well than in all the circumstances it could reasonably be expected to perform.'

Despite this, the letter home fairly unambiguously stated that the staff / senior team, teaching methods etc had been praised by Ofsted, but any problems brought up were restricted the behaviour of a few naughty students, who let the school down. Very carefully selected quotes are heralded to back-slap and defer blame, such as 'School leaders have also been endorsed, providing clear direction...'

So long as the head teacher and senior team believe the Ofsted report truly says they are doing a splendid job, and to carry on as they are, the underlying and wide ranging problems at the school will never change, and are likely to deteriorate rapidly.

Take it on the chin - you've had a rollocking. You are responsible for that school. Face up to it, consult with parents and the community, and make some positive changes right across the school. No exceptions.

From Sam N

Friday, 9 March 2012

I'm totally with Dave H. After reading the report and the online letter to parents on the Calder High website I was somewhat confused.

It seems the school has either totally misunderstood the contents of the report, either that or they have a very talented copy editor. This reeks of spin, and to turn around a fairly damning report such as this (and I dare anyone to convince me that a mix of satisfactory and unsatisfactory gradings is in anyway a glowing report) into a damning indictment towards the children whilst at the same time championing the school itself is fairly sinister.

Yes the report criteria has changed since January and with this comes a slightly harder grading system - schools have been aware of this for some time so have had sufficient time to prepare. Children's behaviour at the school is obviously a major factor within the more extremely negative sections within the report, but to try and compartmentalise this is rather strange, the clue is in the title "Childrens behaviour at the school". Doesn't this surely imply that this may at least in some part due to current teaching practice or at the vary least a distinct lack of communication with parents.

This lack of moral guidance must in turn permeate other sections within the report and was wholly absent within the 2008 report so sounds like the rot has set in recently. How long has the current Head Teacher been there? A certain amount of humility would go a long way. Instead of reassurances about the future of the school we get a "nothing to see here" response, which is quite frankly insulting, especially to someone whose child is due to start in September like myself.

Carol Spillane was due to give a talk at Burnley Road School 2 weeks ago and rang up literally 5 minutes before the meeting was due to start to say she wouldn't be attending as she was "stuck in traffic". There were roughly 30 parents waiting to attend (most of whom had finished work early/ made childcare arrangements etc) all with questions about the future of their children's education. This was inexcusable and all parents were fuming as the notice given was pathetic. A revised meeting has yet to be scheduled by Carol Spillane - yet more cause for concern.

Parents need to be raising their children to be courteous, respectful and polite sure, but a dialog with the school to bridge that parent/teacher gap seems to be sorely missing. I enrolled my child at Calder High for a number of factors, distance, friends, facilities and a great open evening, but number one was the last available Ofsted report from 2008 which was as good as one can hope for - the same can't be said right now, and for all that have enrolled children there in September it is sadly too late. Just talk with us Calder High, not at us, we might start to get somewhere.

From Joe Ridley

Friday, 9 March 2012

Sam and Dave you make some good and relevant points and I'm glad to see that most people on this thread seem to take the Ofsted report at face value and are beginning to question how 'great' our local comprehensive school is - does anybody else recall that ridiculous woman claiming that the comprehensive system is responsible for creating a wonder kid like Joe Cotton?

The only point I take issue with is the idea that the current head is to blame. All the issues raised by Ofsted have existed at Calder High for a long time but through various means they have been covered up and excused. We have been repeatedly told that it's a good school and for a good while the spin has fooled a great many of us. Thanks to a more realistic inspection process we are finally realising the truth of what goes on beyond the school gates.

With reference to the senior management's attempts to distance themselves from the criticism, my son came home yesterday after an interminable 'Ofsted assembly' in which they were lectured on their culpability as students for the poor report. Most laughably though (he was amused too) there was disbelief from the deputy head that any student would have the temerity to tell an inspector that he wasn't happy with students openly smoking throughout the grounds. "Why would you tell them that?" she asked pathetically. Erm....... because it's the truth, and most of the students at school want and expect ground rules and boundaries that are enforced by those in authority.


From Anne Todd

Friday, 9 March 2012

I taught at Calder High from 1984 until last Christmas, when I retired. Let me say at the outset that I have absolutely nothing personally against my wonderful colleagues, or the Head or Chair of the governing body. My decision to retire was made primarily due to extreme family problems which required me to be at home, and I experienced nothing but empathy and kindness from everyone who made my retirement possible.

It is therefore with a very heavy heart that I feel compelled to comment on recent events at the school. (I suspect there will be no comments from those who still work there because they are too professional and too loyal to the school itself.)

It is strange indeed that the letter to parents interpreting the recent Ofsted report seems to bear little resemblance to the spirit of the actual report. It is also strange that there is such a startling contrast between this report and the previous one. The behavour of the pupils has been cited in largely negative terms by the inspectors this time, but this in itself is odd- it is unprecedented, in my experience, for pupils to be anything other than artificially angellic during inspections - so why did they choose to behave so badly this time? Moreover, in 2008 the school was one of the first secondary establishments in West Yorkshire to be awarded the Quality Mark. The bid was very detailed and brimming with good practice -so much so that it was used as an example for other schools wanting the QM themselves. I know because I was asked, along with a colleague, to co-ordinate and write it. It is a shame that the senior management team chose to ignore the deadline for the renewal of the QM, possibly because some of the good practice outlined no longer exists.

I disagree strongly with the comments of Stephen M, who suggests that the school has been "borderline out of control" for many years. This is simply not the case. Of course in a school of so many there will always be disruptive elements and difficult incidents, but we used to have a discipline system that worked when it was fully supported by senior staff. That system has been dismantled, in spite of extreme concerns raised by the staff. Indeed, when one of my colleagues discussed it in the staff room she was reported by person or persons unknown, summoned to the room of one of the deputies and told in no uncertain terms that she should be supporting the (in the opinion of many staff) highly flawed new system. She was so traumatised by this that she could hardly bring herself to talk about it for several weeks.

Then there is the thorny issue of streaming, imposed on staff without any meaningful consultation. In a staff meeting, an excellent dance lesson was shown to us as a rightful example of good practice. At the end of the film we were invited to make comments on what we had seen. A colleague said it demonstrated that there was a place for mixed-ability teaching in some subjects, and there were many nods of agreement. The following day she too was summoned and told she should not have made that comment because it was unhelpful in the light of the new school policy. That colleague has since resigned.

These, in my opinion, are very serious issues which demonstrate poor relationships and motivational skills on behalf of senior management. There are many more examples, believe me. Staff have worked in an atmosphere of mistrust and anxiety which should have been easily avoidable, and which are symptomatic of a lack of experience amongst the management. I'm sure being a head teacher is a lonely and difficult job at times, which is why an experienced head knows that the most valuable assets in any school are the workforce and the pupils. A wise move is to take over a school with a genuinely listening ear, to observe, absorb and really get a feel for the school before setting changes in motion. That way, the school team feel that they are a part of the progress rather than unwilling victims of it. The management team at the beginning of the present Head's tenure included three wise and experienced teachers who'd been appointed to that team by the previous Head, a common practice in many schools to facilitate staff development. One of the new Head's first actions was to stand them down. They could have given her much-needed advice and support.

Finally, if any more evidence were needed of somethng fundamentally wrong at the school, governers should be aware of the high staff turnover during the previous 18 months. Some extremely good teachers including four Heads of Faculty have moved on - in all my 34 years of teaching I can never remember so many leaving in such a short space of time.

So what can be done to start the recovery of Calder High, to restore it to the vibrant, friendly and fun-loving (as well as academically successful) place it used to be? In my opinion it needs to begin with a frank and fearless exchange of views between staff, governers,pupils and parents, in an atmosphere without recrimination. At least that way everyone concerned will have an opportunity to hear each others' points of view, which ought to facilitate greater empathy on all sides. This would need to take place on neutral ground and be chaired by someone with no connection to the school. Then perhaps real progress could begin which was supported and understood by everyone involved.


From Christopher Reason

Friday, 9 March 2012

I think Ian M is getting respect confused with fear. There were several teachers at my school that I feared and was thereby cowed into submission. (Didn't learn much from them though.)

On the other hand there were a handful of teachers that I genuinely respected because they were self-confident, enjoyed the job and seemed genuinely to like the kids they were teaching. These teachers didn't have to raise their voice or impose punishments - because they didn't need to.

Surely we should be encouraging the latter kind of teaching at the expense of the first?

From Graham Barker

Friday, 9 March 2012

Ann Todd's post is stunning, and I think we should applaud her for it. (And by the way applaud Hebweb for being here to carry it.)

It's gracious of Ann to propose a 'clearing the air' meeting and a new beginning, but all her evidence suggests a situation beyond remedy while the current head teacher remains in post. I think Mrs Spillane should now consider her position - or have it considered for her.

Perhaps the board of governors should all go too, as they haven't exactly shone for some time.

From Liz Hainsworth

Friday, 9 March 2012

Well done and thank you Mrs Todd and I totally agree Graham. Please leave Mrs Spillaine.

From Ian M

Saturday, 10 March 2012

I'm not confusing fear with respect at all!

I think you are confusing children as being on an equal footing with the teaching staff - they are not.

It is a necessary function that someone is in charge and makes the rules in all walks of life. It is totally unacceptable for children to openly challenge the rules of a school just because they dont like them.

If I'm in a meeting with my employer, I accept that ultimately he is in charge and makes the final decision. I don't throw my pen and notes around the room and disrupt the meeting because i dont agree with a decision. Can you imagine how long id last if I did!

From K Thomas

Saturday, 10 March 2012

I am not surprised to see that that the school Ofsted report was borderline rubbish. The students and staff have not been happy for a long time due to Mrs Spillane. Her leadership skills are not the best in the world eg spends her life in the office and not interacting with the school and barking out new rules and wasting money making the school grounds like a prison. She has caused trouble with the local residents stopping a public right of way with a massive expensive electric gate that us tax payers had to pay for and not making a safe alternative into Mytholmroyd and never responds to letters or complaints.

She is damn right rude and too busy defending herself with the governors to care to say yes we have made a mistake but we will be putting it right in the future.

I am a former ex pupil of this school and Mr Scott always got involved with the community and cared about what they thought and their feelings. He also cared about his pupils and staff getting involved with day to day activities even always goung down to the bus lay by every day and making sure everyone felt good about themselves.

It is time Mrs Spillane got off her chair and started caring about her students and staff instead of barking out orders. Yes some changes were needed, however certain areas should have been left alone. She will never control every pupil and member of staff that she is trying to do at the moment.

She needs to get off her high horse and get "involved" more with her pupils and staff and show a caring side if that exists in her body then some people might start liking her and working with her to bring Calder High back to a good School.

From Graham Barker

Saturday, 10 March 2012

And another thing. Ann's evidence is in stark contrast to the claim by the Chair of Governors that: 'These concerns are not about the quality of teaching or leadership – Ofsted made that clear.'

So the governors are in denial and Ofsted missed the elephant in the room. Great. How much more codswallop are we going to get from the CHS publicity machine before someone gets a grip on the real problem rather than the invented one?

From Jane R

Saturday, 10 March 2012

I've read this thread with interest, my son too is at Calder High and does not regard the Head with much esteem. It would appear the school seems more concerned with how the pupils dress then the actual quality of the teaching.

My son is a bright lad but needs to be engaged and stimulated, inline with other people comments on here posts he can't wait to leave, we feel the school has well and truly failed him.

I haven't actually met the Head. We were due to, but she failed to turn up to a meeting at one of the feeder schools, which she had organised to 'present her vision'. Unfortunately, the twenty odd parents who had left work early to attatend the meeting were left seeing red. Interesting this was around the time of the report and she has not rearrange the meeting.

From Steve W

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Well done Head Teacher. You've told the kids just how bad they are over the last few days. They really needed to know, just before they go into their exams, that you feel they're to blame for all the school's problems. Whatever you do, make sure you don't encourage them.

From Allen Keep

Sunday, 11 March 2012

My starting point amidst all this is that schools are an integral part of our community and to have both Riverside and Calder High labelled as "inadequate" is a painful blow to the staff at the schools, the children and young people and their parents and carers. It's horrible.

Tragically, what tends to follow Ofsted reports like this is a blame fest where understandably concerned (and sometimes justifiably angry parents) shout at the school, the school shouts at the children and young people and the parents shout at each other, or each other's children when what is needed, more than ever, is for all of us to work together.

The responsibility for the aftermath, I'm afraid, lies in many ways at the door of Ofsted itself and I think we should focus a little on the reality of the inspection regime before demanding that people are sacked. I'm not much used to defending heads, and I'm not particularly defending this one - but we are going to lose an awful lot of headteachers if this is the outcome of all reports that come back as "inadequate".

Mine was one of the first schools to undergo an Ofsted inspection some 20 years ago and it wasn't nice then. The inspection regime has always been divisive and, in my view, always had a political agenda behind it (remember Chris Woodhead anyone?) – including under Labour. But at least way back then there was a veneer of a support and development agenda and less of a climate of fear – it's a hell of a lot worse now where judgements are being increasingly used to pillory and crucify schools.

Under the coalition and with and new leadership Ofsted plans to re-grade up to 25% of schools previously graded as "outstanding" to "good". The "satisfactory" grading which, as all teachers know, is now regarded by Ofsted will go entirely. Inspections are becoming narrower in focus and less reliant, in fact, on genuine observation and even less on a constructive dialogue with Heads and governing bodies. In the near future inspections will be entirely unannounced and involve no pre-inspection consultation with parents.

In January this year Michael Gove's "hero" Sir Michael Wilshaw became Chief Inspector. Sir Michael has not been slow to let his views be known and says this: "I make no apology for making even greater demands of an education system which has to respond with greater urgency to increasingly difficult and competitive economic circumstances."

Statements such as this have increased concern within teaching that Ofsted is becoming more overtly than ever before an arm of government policy rather than an independent inspection system and that part of this process is to drive schools into the academy process by failing them.

"Special measures" for instance is now a route towards forced academy status - is this a coincidence when the government is badly failing in meeting its target figure of academy status schools?

Sir Michael also gives us an insight into how schools should be run
"A good head would never be loved by his or her staff. If anyone says to you that 'staff morale is at an all-time low' you know you are doing something right." If that had been openly said by Miss Spillaine I would be first in the queue demanding her resignation. He also said this (in describing his own previous school)

"There's a 'no excuses culture' here, we tell the youngsters and we tell the parents we don't care really what background you're from". Fair enough, many may think, but the subtext is clear to me - he means that "achievement" has nothing to do with the social circumstances pupils find themselves in and therefore there are no barriers to schools achieving excellence (in terms of results of course).

This goes hand in glove with the decision Mr. Gove made to immediately scrap the use of CVA scores (which gave an indication of social deprivation factors on school results) as a comparative tool when looking at the performance of schools in favour of "no excuses" results data only.
I'm sure some will feel that all this is nothing much to do with CHS and I really don't mean to derail the conversation to a "political" issue although I have no apology for raising the political context. It does mean however that the Head makes a fair point when she says, for instance, that schools who gain an "inadequate" mark in any category are likely to receive an inadequate judgement overall – that's clearly in the Ofsted guidance.

It's quite clear that the overall judgment for CHS was made because of a score of 4 in the new category of "behaviour and safety which came into force a matter of days before the school was inspected – with two days notice (many schools felt similarly disadvantaged when the focus of inspections changed recently to "safeguarding" and some were judged as satisfactory or inadequate overall because their fences were too low or their ID procedures were poor etc and therefore failed the safeguarding judgement).

It will sound like bleating to some but schools just can't keep up with the incredible amount of changes to curriculum and inspection arrangements under successive governments and I disagree that the school can have had time to assimilate and act upon the new expectations. As an example, the DfE and NASEN have joined forces to train special educational needs coordinators (SENCOs) on the demands placed on schools by the new special educational needs/disability (SEND) legislation (another story) and the implications of the revised Ofsted framework. The training is excellent I'm told. The regional event relevant to Calderdale took place last week.

Just for information/interest for those who don't know and to aid further debate, here are the criteria for making judgements in the behaviour and safety category for which CHS scored its only "inadequate" grade.

Having seen them perhaps parents and carers will continue to be able to make their own informed assessment of the judgements Ofsted has made about their children's behaviour? One observation I would make is that having worked for many years in close partnership with high schools as an advisor on behavioural issues/management and having been in schools at lunchtimes on literally thousands of occasions is that if schools are going to be tipped into a classification of "inadequate" because their children are smoking, swearing and eating take away food at lunchtime (not that this is acceptable) we are going to have a very large number of inadequate schools in the very near future.

I also, from experience, concur with Rev. Tony Burglass's comments about the inconsistency and incoherence of Ofsted at times. I have worked alongside countless schools in the last 15 years during their Ofsted inspections, schools where I have provided professional advice and support for many years and where I have seen teaching and management at very close quarters. It can only be anecdotal evidence - so take it or leave it - but I have been frequently astounded (as have my colleagues) when schools I consider to be good/excellent by any criteria are seen by Ofsted to be "satisfactory" (the new poor) or worse. Similarly, I have to say, I have seen schools where my view has been of a school that has much work to do - been graded as good or outstanding. I honestly sometimes think there is a "lottery" element to it all; that some schools' management are better than others at "pulling the wool" and/or a lot depends on who schools get to inspect them and their "expertise" or background etc or what happens literally on the day. The process is not as objective as most think in my view.

My plea is for unity. This is not about giving each other a big hug but, as Ann suggests so eloquently and passionately an active and participatory discussion and the opportunity to make constructive criticism with a view to moving forward together. That is something we could all reasonably ask for and I hope CHS considers facilitating that - and soon.

In that context, Ann's constructive criticisms of management are perhaps more revealing than the Ofsted report itself and are genuinely worrying and there are clearly considerable issues with the school. The fish rots from the head as they say and it would appear that there may be an unhelpful, top down culture of management in the school at the moment that may have demoralised staff, alienated the pupils and which needs to be addressed in a constructive manner – something for the governors to consider and perhaps for the teachers to find a voice about.

As a parent, I'm particularly glad that Ann has highlighted the issue of streaming in the school as they have got that very badly wrong – it is educationally unsound and methodologically bankrupt. It's clear many parents have their issues too - and they really need to be constructively heard.

CHS, in my opinion, needs to prioritise the development of more effective school partnerships through increased involvement and participation of parent and far better communications and means of responding to parents concerns (which in my experience to date seems poor). How many parents are aware of the school's behaviour policy or sanctions system for instance and are engaged with it?

Schools, of course, will often say they do this kind of thing (and I have seen lots of them try) but that parents are "hard to reach", don't turn up or fail to contribute until something goes wrong – so there is a responsibility for parents here too and, to be honest, perhaps we need to look in the mirror too?

It appears to me also, both from the report and comments here, that the school badly needs to listen to and engage with its own pupils, who I have no reason to believe are any less than wonderful on the whole - and rather than blame or demonise them which so often happens to draw on their strengths and encourage their participation and involvement in developing a shared culture and common expectations. My experience, such that it is, is that when this is done and done well the results are "excellent".

From Gavin Parry

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Thank you for this informative, considered and insightful thread. It is clear that the comments here are a far more accurate reflection of the real problems, than the cynically spun response from the school. The letter sent to parents bears little connection with most of what the OSTED report says, and the schools refusal to critically reflect on the report came as no surprise, and is in keeping to its narrow minded and defensive attitude when it comes to dealing with key issues.

Over the last 5 years, since our son has been a pupil, we have expressed our concerns with regard to, for example: inconsistent homework policy, the inadequate progress report cards, the lack of any substantial school parent forum. (concerns that I know are shared by many parents). Whilst these have been sympathetically heard and understood by some teachers, the reaction from the management and the general ethos of the school is defensive and, in reality, unwelcoming of parents input. (a home -school partnership, from the schools perspective, is just for appearances , a gesture that it is obliged to make) Our dealing with the Governors has been even less fruitful- a reply we got to a letter expressing our concerns about the flaky progress reports came across as very defensive, arrogant, and totally unwilling to even acknowledge our concerns as even relevant, and certainly not important in anyway).

For me this (pre-Rusty) experience of the school's management culture left a bitter taste, and I think, lies at the core of the school's current problems. This is a school which has been underachieving for a while despite pockets of excellence; coasting, and willing to settle for less than it really should, and not really ambitious for itself or its pupils.

So far the school's response to the OFSTED report has been predictably disappointing. The changes required to make the school a better one are ones of substance, and until there is an acknowledgement that the responsibility here lies more with the Governors and management, than with the pupils, then any improvements will be insubstantial as best, and just empty spin at worse.

As a postscript - a prediction, even: This current Y11 cohort has long been recognized, as being, on the whole, a very well behaved and of above average ability (it just happens sometimes). When this group delivers improved GCSE results for the school in August, it will be used by the school as evidence that things are improving (check Hebden Bridge Times issue, on or after 23rd August 2012?). Unfortunately, for all the reasons stated here and in other posts, this will not be the case: the pupils' exam success will be despite the implementation of all the non-joined-up new rules or of having to endure marathon blame-the-pupil assemblies, not because of these.

From Anne Todd

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Hmm . . . I'm thinking of changing my name to Thane of Calder (as in "nothing became her in her career so much as the leaving of it..."), although actually, on reflection, that would be most unfair to the amazing pupils I've taught, the debates we've had and the adrenalin rush that was the Mock Trial competitions, to say nothing of the privilege of being a part of a principled, progressive comprehensive school for so many years.

Calder will rise again, as long as the voices don't cease until those in charge have heard them. My very best wishes to you all.

From Allen Keep

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

I thought it would be helpful to those trying to assess what Ofsted have reported against their own views of provision in CHS (particularly perhaps on the issue of behaviour and safety) to view the judgement criteria inspectors are supposed to use.

It's like a marking scheme really - what kind of thing would be a descriptor of excellent for instance (or, in the case of CHS, satisfactory for all but inadequate for behaviour and safety)

See: The evaluation schedule for the inspection of maintained schools and academies from January 2012

From Catherine Lee

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Well, I'm glad to read this thread and find that I am not alone in my concerns about the school and the misrepresentation of the Ofsted report.

I have a child in year 11 at Calder High. In her years of going there, she has loved school and thrived in an environment where she felt valued, respected and understood by her teachers and peers. It has been very saddening that in her last year at Calder High, she has grown to hate school, and she is counting the days until the end of term when she leaves. This is mostly down to the shifting ethos of the school under the current leadership.

I have sent a letter to Mrs Spillane detailing my response to how the leadership are handling the notice to improve and my concerns about how the blame is being placed at the door of the students.

If school leaders are serious about finding solutions to the issues being raised, they must stop demonising our youth and undermining their human rights. Instead, they need to start listening to what these children, their parents and it seems many of their staff are saying, and the findings must inform how they respond to the wider issues underpinning the concerns raised by Ofsted. This situation cannot be attributed to children's misbehaviour alone; senior leaders are ultimately accountable.

Pupil and parental engagement needs to be a genuine and meaningful process if leaders and teachers at the school want to nurture a positive culture and regain the pride of their students and trust of parents. Enforcing more rules, with focus on uniform and children 'misbehaving when in unseen places' at lunch time, seems to be the current mode of dealing with this crisis. An elaborate behaviour policy means nothing if it doesn't tally with the common experience of staff and pupils, and I believe that this will only add further damage to the reputation of the school and self-esteem of our children.

Hopefully we will be given the opportunity to address these issues fully in a public forum.

From Abi L

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

This all makes such disturbing reading, I really hope the senior management and Head read this, but I strongly suspect they have their heads far too deeply embedded in the sand, or elsewhere.

As a parent of a year 6-er, I am going to try to get my child into Tod High before the inevitable ensuing rush. I don't think they have streaming.

From Jan HC

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

As a former Calder High parent, whose youngest child left last July, I was interested in the results of the Ofsted inspection. Rumours were rife - the report wasn't good, the school had been put into special measures, the head teacher was on her way out. So I was surprised when I read the letter to parents regarding the report - it didn't seem too bad, maybe the rumours were wrong. However, given my dealings last year with Carole Spillane I re-read the letter and decided it sounded like typical Spillane spin. I then looked at the report - all the grades were 3's and 4's, not good whichever way you looked at it.

I know quite a few children at Calder High and none of them speak highly of the leadership team. They are fed up with being patronised, constantly being criticised and now being led to believe they are wholly to blame for a poor Ofsted result.

My son left Calder High to go to Sixth Form elsewhere just as Mrs Spillane arrived. My daughter had just one year of her leadership. In that year she went from a girl who had consistently enjoyed school from Nursery onwards to someone who counted the days until she could leave. It is awful to watch your child go off to school without their normal smile and watch them come home with the phrase 'I can't wait to leave' being used several times a week.
She too is studying for A levels elsewhere.

All schools have teachers that are not really up to scratch but Calder High has had some excellent ones. Teachers who are enthusiastic and can inspire the pupils should be valued and nutured. It is with great sadness that I have heard of a significant number of these great teachers leaving Calder High. It seems that Mrs Spillane has a gift of demoralising those around her, be they children or adults.

I find it strange that in the time Mrs Spillane has been at Calder High I have not heard a single positive thing about her. I have heard countless stories of her patronising way of speaking to the pupils, of endless assemblies criticising pupils (my daughter experienced these personally), her inappropriate dress whilst the children are being lectured on dress code..... the list is long.

I am not surprised at the response to the Ofsted inspection. When we contacted Mrs Spillane last year to express our dismay about a decision taken about the Prom, the letter we received back didn't really address our points, but had the overwhelming attitude of 'How dare you criticise me'. Not helpful. She didn't even respond to our second letter asking for clarification of certain points. We also had no response from the governors.

The school cannot begin to address the problems highlighted in the report until the leadership accepts that there are problems. They should consider why behaviour appears to have become worse since the introduction of high fences and adults in high-vis vests. There are a number of pupils who feel school has a prison like feel to it now.

Calder High has been a good school albeit with room for improvement in some areas. Let's hope that the current leadership doesn't damage it's good reputation any further.

From Colin C

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

As a parent of a child who may become a pupil of CHS, I too have read this thread with interest and growing concern.

In summary we seem to have unhappy children, unhappy parents, unhappy teachers, and an unhappy OFSTED. I'm left with the impression of poor behavioural standards (and not just the kids), barely adequate teaching, and a Head Teacher and governors who have lost all confidence and respect.

In response to this appalling situation, the school management team's response has been to shift responsibility to anyone but themselves, be this the children, the inspectors, or the phases of the moon.

Is this a school that I wish my child to attend?

From Julie H

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

I am so sad that my 2 boys attend ths school now. What a shame they both hate it and feel they are being punished for Ofsted results. Miss Todd was a fab teacher and my son had a great time a few years ago with her and the mock trials, before Ms Spillane! They both are desperate now to leave.

From Helen Chilton

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

I have a son in Year 9, I attempted to work with staff there for many years as an LEA officer (no joy when it came to Senior Management, though many of the ordinary teachers are a joy to work with - if you're ever allowed near them) and I have a lot of longstanding concerns about the school:

1. I set up a Facebook page - concerned parents of Calder High students - re early entry GCSE - in Oct 2011

2. I submitted a complaint to Ofsted re the above in early January 2012

3. I sent a pack of stuff to the inspection team late January 2012

4. Today - 14 March 2012 - I sent a complaint about Ofsted to the relevant address re: the report's failure to justify the judgement that the Y9 curriculum could be said to be broad and balanced and . . . requesting particulars of the Head's claim that the decision to abandon the early option policy for this year's Y8 was necessitated by legislation, ie. asking to be shown which part/s of the Education Act 2011 or other, addresses the early entry issue.

I should hear back soon. I'll let you know.

From Graham Barker

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Does anyone know how to contact the parent governors? I ask because I've emailed the governors via the clerk, basically to say that in my view as a parent the school doesn't have a pupil behaviour problem, it has a head teacher problem.

I expected my email to be distributed automatically to each governor, but apparently this isn't what happens. Emails go to the chair of governors, who decides what, if anything, to do about them. Thus there is no assurance that any governors beyond chairman Rob Good get to see communications sent by parents. Many parents will recall Rob Good's attempts to stifle all discussion about Miss Rusty.

So I emailed the clerk of governors again, asking this time if I could be put directly in touch with the parent governors. They're supposed to represent parents, so you'd think an obvious requirement would be a way for parents to contact them in confidence.

Two days later, I still haven't had a reply. I'd hate to interpret this as deliberate obstruction but it's starting to look that way.

It all raises questions about how much governing the governors actually do. Which brings me back to my original question. Parent governors are listed as Luci Allen, Peter Buckley, Rev Marcus Bull, Helen Carter, Geraldine Wrathall, Dr Gary Everett-Heywood, Fran Orford.

I don't know any of them and have no way of making contact. If any of them would like to make their contact details known, I for one would be grateful. But if that doesn't happen, how on earth am I or other parents supposed to express views to them?

From Catherine Lee

Thursday, 15 March 2012

There is a common problem being raised here relating to the issue of communication with the school leaders and governers. If you try to find an email address for the Head or governers on the school website, you can't as the proper links from their names to their email addresses aren't live. I suspect that many of the parents who have emailed the link that's been put on there for Ofsted comments, are still awaiting a response from the school.

I sent my letter of concern to Mrs Spillane at school by email and by post, but I also sent it to the Hebden Bridge Times this week. They have very kindy printed most of the original letter and added a photo and headline, which is much appreciated. If my personal letter to the school leaders is ignored or overlooked, perhaps they will respond to one that is published in the local press.

Parents need to have a voice in what is going on within the school. We need to keep pushing for that voice using whatever platforms we can to communicate our concerns. Our children need us to stand up for them and we have a right to be heard and have our concerns taken seriously.

From Janine Bell

Friday, 16 March 2012

I just want to know when they are are going to talk to us - the parents. I am getting more and more frustrated about what is happening. Is it also true that a lot of the pupils decided to protest this week by walking out?

From Catherine Lee

Friday, 16 March 2012

In a letter to parents/carers dated 12th March, Mrs Spillane has mentioned that the governors and leadership will be meeting with us in the next few weeks in the hope that they can actively engage our support. She also mentions that a parents' meeting will be held with representatives from the LEA, the Governing Body and Mrs Spillane herself. There is no indication of when this might be, but I imagine they will need to hold this meeting before the end of term.

I beleive that the excellent suggestion this week from Mrs Todd, about holding a forum with the intention of giving everyone in the school community the opportunity to speak openly and honestly about the situation with the school at the moment, is what needs to be done next. However the wording in Mrs Spillane's letters, seems to indicate that the intention of the proposed meetings with parents, is for the school leaders to tell us what they are doing rather than allow an open forum.

I received a response yesterday to the letter I sent to both the school and the paper this week. My intention is to respond to Mrs Spillane with a request for an open forum as suggested by Mrs Todd and many others who have submitted to this forum. I hope this is something that will be supported by everyone, however if you have any reservations about this or any further suggestions, please let me know. I am tired from work this evening so will write my response to Mrs Spillane over the weekend. I just wanted to check in with everyone who has contributed to this valuable forum about the content of my reply before I send it in. I wouldn't want to send in anything that people aren't comfortabe with.

I'm making my email address known in this posting, so please feel free to get in touch.

From Christopher Reason

Friday, 16 March 2012

Anyone who's worked in an organisation will recognise what's going on here.

Paranoia has set in. Those suffering the paranoia try to exert closer control. This leads to resentment and rebellion on the part of those being controlled. Which in turn provokes more control freakery. Morale plummets. Everyone piles in. (Me included) Everything feels chaotic. There seems no way out.

I've experienced this several times within my own working life and I'm sure there are many people reading this who'll identify with it.

The solution has always been the same. Those at the top have to go, allowing someone new to come in, clean up and restore morale.

It's not a question of if; it's a question of when.

From Hannah C

Monday, 19 March 2012

I have recently left Calder High School and can honestly say that I have never been happier to see the back of somewhere. I was only at the school for a year after Carol Spillane was appointed Head Teacher, but within weeks of her first changes to the rules it was obvious that the school and the wider community had not taken kindly to her attitude towards the school.

Yes, there are some things about Calder High that needed improving before she was appointed, but the recent Ofsted report makes it obvious that the new Head has, in fact, made problems worse.

After the protests following the suspension of Miss Rusty and M Cann, surely anyone can see what sort of children attend Calder High school, and that if they do not agree with something they will make their opinions clear. Although, of course, students should respect their teachers. I suppose it is very hard for them to do so when there has been such a high staff turnover since Mrs Spillane was appointed, making it clear that even her own staff do not have a very high opinion of her.

Perhaps it would have been better for Mrs Spillane to wait for a year or so until she decided to begin such drastic changes. Perhaps then she could have got a better feel for the community, and for the children she is responsible for. If she wants the pupils to respect her, maybe she should come out of her office once in a while and actually chat to them, instead of only appearing for patronizing assemblies which are not going to improve anyone's opinion of her.

I think it would be in Mrs Spillane's best interests to actually respond to the comments made by Ofsted, and indeed the comments made by parents to her, rather than immediately taking a defensive attitude and suggesting that anyone who disagrees with her rule is completely wrong. Perhaps if she actually appeared to take an interest in the pupils she is looking after, and seemed to want to help them make the most of their future, rather than just trying to get good grades for her school, she may have been met with a little more respect from both her students and their parents.

From Paul Clarke

Thursday, 22 March 2012

My daughter is some way off Calder High but as it takes years to turn a poor school round I have a vested interest.

I may have missed it but is there a date for the vital meeting between the parents and the Head?

If so then parents should use this forum to debate what they want to change and create some sort of charter for change. Otherwise you end up with a set of vague promises.

If a date hasn't been set then instead of just moaning about your kids being in a poor school get an online peition going or maybe have a demo outside the school to force the head and Governors to set a date. After all, your kids had the balls to do it for Miss 'inspirational teacher'.

If the Head is the issue then she must confronted by the full weight of Calder parents as soon as possible.

From Helen Chilton

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Some of you may be aware that, a few months before the Ofsted inspection, many Calder High parents were already expressing serious concerns about the school. You may also recall that in November 2011, one parent had a letter published in the HB Times regarding the school's new policy of early entry to GCSE, i.e. our Year 9 children were already taking two exams or more each.

An impromptu parents' meeting was hastily convened and took place in the Ted Hughes Theatre at the end of November, attracting some 80 plus parents who addressed three members of the governing body. The results: an open letter to the Head Teacher and an agreement to forward our individual complaints to Ofsted.

Much water has passed under the bridge since then, a Google Group has been established, some of us did complain to Ofsted (to no avail) and we never did receive a satisfactory response from Mrs Spillane to our open letter.

Then came the Ofsted visit. As previously posted, I have submitted my complaint about the report and await a response. But concerns/ rage/ grievances/ fury etc. simmer on, both in the Google Group and on this discussion thread. And none of us sees any real hope of improvement under the current leadership, unless all of our very strong objections/ concerns are addressed, which we see no signs of their being.

So we on the Google Group have organised a public meeting so that we can come together and formulate some plans. We would like to invite all of you - posters and interested readers - and everyone you know who is upset/ uneasy/ deranged (oh, that's just me then) about it all - to come and air your views.

Now - it would be easy and very therapeutic for us all just to come and have a good shout. But time is limited, and we think we all need to hold hard, have a clear focus, and maintain good self-discipline.

To this end we have prevailed upon Dave Boardman to be our chair. We have booked the Trades Club room from 7.30 pm on Tuesday 17 April. It seats 190 people. It may be large enough.

If we find we need a larger venue - I'll let you know. On the night . . . we might have to improvise a solution - unless someone out there can provide a Plan B.

We plan to draw up an agenda to guide us through the very many disparate concerns that have been aired. If you would like to propose an item - or theme - or more than one - please do so before the meeting and we'll try and organise the meeting in advance.

Pass it on.

Helen Chilton

From Julie C

Monday, 2 April 2012

I have some misgivings about the proposed meeting, it sounds from Helen's email as though it will just give space for anger and aggression.
We need an event that has conflict resolution and engagement with the school at its heart - positive creative solutions to problems, perhaps drawn from a workshop format, with a chaired discussion and report back at the end.

From Emily G

Monday, 2 April 2012

While largely agreeing with Julie C - the meeting must be conducted so that we set the best example to our children, and to the staff and management of Calder High - I just want to say how pleased I am that someone is doing something. Well, done to those who have organised the meeting. Let's go on to try and make Calder High the school where everyone wants to send their kids.

From Graham Barker

Monday, 2 April 2012

I'm sure everyone knows how to behave in a civilised way, but the very fact that this meeting has had to be organised by parents and not by CHS management or governors suggests that the chances of compromise or reconciliation may be slim.

From H Gregg

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

It would be propitious specifically to invite the head and the governors to the meeting (and teachers, ex-teachers and pupils). Show them how it should be done.

From Helen Chilton

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Meeting on 17 April - just to let people know that suggestions for agenda items can be submitted via the email address: parentsforchange12@talktalk.net

From Jonathan Timbers

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

As a parent of a primary school aged child, I've been reading this thread with interest and dismay.

As a parent, I am concerned about the standards of behaviour in the school which OFSTED (in my view) rightly highlighted and, in particular, the use of racist language. This has not been mentioned much in this thread, but I believe that there are issues with racism in the school, both institutional and individual, which, along with a host of other problems, are swept under the carpet, and have been for decades. I welcome the report as an opportunity to air them.

Whilst I sympathise with any Head, because of the nature of the role, I also think they need to learn to become more transparent and accountable and learn to consult both governors, pupils and parents properly rather than making a superficial show of doing so.

From Bev W

Date Thursday, 19 April 2012

I have one child in year 8 and two younger children in my local primary school that may go on to attend, as such I am very concerned about the situation. I have read all the above comments and would like to share my views.

I have contacted the school about various issues and other than the very supportive and helpful Ms Hindle have had little or no response. My child, like many others, brings home tales of a school out of control in many ways. She seems to enjoy most of her time there but some of the comments she makes do concern me.

I ensure that my child turns up for school on time, in the correct uniform and with all her homework completed. However I am aware that not all parents do so, I feel that if the school are to set out strict rules regarding such issues as uniform the least they can do is enforce them.

I could go on a rant, but I don't feel that will help the school or my child.
As I don't live in the local area I was unaware of the meeting that was held last night, but I would very much like to get involved and help out in anyway possible.

I am already involved with my local primary school and feel that the way forward must be active and engaged parents.

If someone could please let me know the date and place for the next meeting I will be there.

From Nicola Appleyard

Friday, 20 April 2012

I am also extremely disappointed with the recent Ofsted report and also the tales that my child who is currently in year 8 comes home with, such as fights, misbehaving in class, swearing and so on. She is always complaining that she wants to work but is unable to to so due to the class distruption.

I believe there is a parents steering group which is being held on Wednesday 25th April which unfortunately I am unable to attend. However, I definitely would like to become involved in any future meetings (I wasn't aware of the recent meeting until I read about it in the Halifax Courier).

From Bev W

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Firstly I would like to thank all the parents who arranged last night's meeting, it was very informative.

As discussed last night I have contacted the school about the proposed meeting on Monday to set up a PTA/Friends of Calder High. I was told that I was welcome to go along. However, 5 mins later I received a phone call to inform me that this meeting was only for the people who had received the letter inviting them. Again this seems to be a lack of understanding from the school. Surely all parents who want to help should be allowed to.

From John H

Monday, 30 April 2012

I for one do not wish to see the back of Mrs Spillane. Yet!! I am wanting to witness our solicitor deal with her, the Board of Governors, and Calderdale. I applaud all of those on here who have deemed to write in with their views, but I am still quite stunned at how little is being said about just what the pupils have to deal with from day to day and whether or not help is really there when they need it. Obviously for legal reasons I cannot go into detail. But this legal case will astound you all.

From Steering Group of Friends of Calder High

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

The group - mainly of parents - that met on 18 and 25 April has endorsed the name Friends of Calder High. It is an open forum for parents and other members of the community who want to be involved with the school and who are seeking a voice and genuine engagement with the school.

The next meeting is at St Michael's Church Hall, Mythomlroyd at 7.30-9pm on Tues 15 May.

The aim of the group is to support the school and work with it to ensure that the views of the wider community are represented and understood and to encourage the school to provide an exciting and ambitious experience for our children, based on local need.

We are seeking meetings with the Head and senior leadership team, the LA and with governors to open a process of positive dialogue.

Hopefully, most parents will have had the chance to attend the meetings about the school's Action Plan by then. This will be one of the items for discussion.

From Helen Chilton

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

The next meeting of the recently formed Friends of Calder High will take place on Tuesday 15 May from 7.30 pm till 9 pm.

We have booked the main room at St Michael's Church, Mytholmroyd - it's just set back from the main road in the centre of town. We'll have a bucket collection to help pay for room hire and future events.

It's a public meeting, open to all. We hope to see as many of you as can make it.

See also

HebWeb News: Calder High Ofsted Report - School given 'notice to improve' (6 March 2012)