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City of Preston High School : Ofsted Report

23–24 April 2009
Reporting Inspector: 
Joe Clark
Description of the school: 

This is a small school in an area of very high social and economic deprivation. Nearly all students, of which there are more boys than girls, live close to the school. The proportion of students entitled to free school meals is well above average. Almost half of the students have learning difficulties and/or disabilities; a high proportion have social, emotional and behavioural difficulties. There are few minority ethnic students. All but a few students have English as their first language. There is relatively high mobility within the school population.
When the school was last inspected, it was judged to require special measures. Since then, there has been a significant turnover in the teaching staff. The school has found great difficulty recruiting mathematics teachers and there has been no substantive head of mathematics for four terms. The local authority has published plans to close the school at the end of December 2009, when it will merge with another Preston high school. These plans, which are not opposed by the school’s governing body, are at an advanced stage of public consultation.

Overall effectiveness and Average across all judgements

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Leadership, management and capacity for school improvement

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Overall achievement & academic performance

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Care, Guidance and Personal development

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Ofsted assessment

City of Preston High School is an improving school that provides its students with a satisfactory standard of education. In accordance with section 13 (4) of the Education Act 2005, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector is of the opinion that the school no longer requires special measures.
The key to the school’s improvement has been its willingness to accept change and seek improvement. The impact of the headteacher has been immense. He has created a culture where teachers now have high expectations of what students can and should achieve. Improvements in staffing have been rigorously and successfully pursued and there is a common sense of purpose among teachers and other adults that has transformed the ethos of the school. As one Year 11 girl put it, ‘You would not recognise this school from what it was just two years ago, it has changed so much’. Consequently, the school has a good capacity to make further improvements.
The school has had to tackle a legacy of low standards and weak teaching. Improvements in teaching and learning have been given a high priority. Inspectors found both to be satisfactory. Some good lessons were seen where teachers set high expectations for students’ behaviour, provided interesting but challenging work for the different ability groups in the class and kept a focus on learning throughout the lesson. In some less successful lessons, expectations of behaviour were not high enough, and the school’s disciplinary code not used consistently enough, to ensure students stayed on task long enough for learning to take place. The curriculum is satisfactory overall with some good aspects, particularly in its emphasis on vocational courses. The proportion of students that continues into employment, training or further education is well below the national average.
Partly as a result of improvements in teaching and learning, standards are rising and progress accelerating. The school’s data on students entered for this summer’s Year 11 external examinations indicate that results will be the best ever. Standards on entry are very low, especially in English. Students, including those with learning difficulties and/or disabilities, make satisfactory progress as they move through the school and, by the end of Year 11, they have generally reached standards that are well below average. The proportion of students gaining five or more GCSE or equivalent A* to C grades has been rising steadily and in 2008 was almost double that in 2006, with two in five students achieving 5 or more good grades. Standards in mathematics are particularly low.
Better attitudes and behaviour are also contributing to rising standards. Personal development overall is satisfactory. The behaviour of the vast majority of students is at least satisfactory and often good. A small minority of students sometimes find it difficult to settle to work and can sometimes disrupt the learning of others. The high proportion of exclusions in the autumn term has reduced considerably as the new behavioural policy continues to bed in. The school has worked hard to improve attendance which is satisfactory and on an upward trend. Last term’s attendance, especially in Year 11, was much higher than in the corresponding period last year. Students say they feel safe in school. They know about the importance of healthy lifestyles and adopting safe practices. They enjoy school, especially when exercising responsibility. Preparation for the next stage of learning is satisfactory. Students are well cared for by pastoral and other staff and receive satisfactory guidance on how to improve their academic standards.
Although there are many strengths in the satisfactory leadership and management of the school, these have not yet had a sufficiently positive impact on students’ achievement of higher standards.

What can be improved

  • Ensure there is sufficient challenge within teaching to raise standards, especially in mathematics.
  • Ensure greater consistency by teachers, both in their high expectations of students’ behaviour, and in their use of the school’s disciplinary code to manage behaviour more effectively.
  • Increase the proportion of students who continue into employment, training or further education when they leave school.

A small proportion of the schools whose overall effectiveness is judged as satisfactory but which have areas of underperformance will receive a monitoring visit by an Ofsted inspector before their next section 5 inspection.

Progress of Special Needs learners, and equality of opportunity

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Behaviour & attendance of learners

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Curriculum and Teaching

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