‘Ground zero’: Latest head promises Hackney New School’s fortunes are on the up after Ofsted rates it ‘inadequate’ across the board

Hackney New School. Picture: Hackney Council

Hackney New School. Picture: Hackney Council - Credit: Archant

Governors and leaders have been blamed for letting Hackney New School lapse, after inspectors rated it inadequate across the board.

The Ofsted inspection was carried out in June after the school in Kingsland Road, Haggerston, was closed for three days due to concerns about safety.

The school had just sacked one head teacher - the fourth within the space of two years. Her replacement was then also replaced within a week by Charlotte Whelan, who is still in place and backs the inspector's findings - but says strong leadership is now in place to ensure the school makes rapid improvements.

Inspectors who gave the school the worst possible rating in all five areas - of overall effectiveness, leadership, teaching, welfare and pupils' outcome - deemed staff didn't have the appropriate training to deal with violent pupils.

At the time local authority officers were visiting the school daily to monitor emergency safeguarding arrangements.

"Until recently the inappropriate and intimidating physical behaviour of a significant minority caused some pupils and staff to feel unsafe," said inspectors in the report.

"The emergency intervention has eased these fears temporarily, however too many pupils lack the self discipline to moderate their own behaviour and show too little respect for their teachers," they added, advising newly qualified teachers should not be appointed there.

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They also found kids at the school hadn't received adequate teaching because of the rapid turnover of staff, and that teachers' were too often interrupted by calling out and poor behaviour during lessons.

In response some staff were using "inappropriate verbal aggression and confrontation" when dealing with the poor behaviour which was "making a bad situation even worse", and children were being excluded rather than properly dealt with.

Extremist, sexualised and homophobic graffiti was found dotted around the school building - some of which had still not been removed since a previous Ofsted inspection a year before.

Attendance was low, literacy and numeracy were not developed well across the curriculumand key stage 3 daily reading and core skills sessions had apparently been dropped "in favour of a longer lunch break".

Pupils told inspectors they felt bullied and intimidated, and the school's work to promote pupils personal development and welfare was considered inadequate.

"In conversation inspectors found many pupils to show good manners and the ability to take part in intelligent conversation with good humour," said officers. "These pupils show remarkable resilience and patience in the face of the poor quality education they receive. They are not getting a fair deal."

Mrs Whelan, who helped turn Forest Gate Community into one of the best in the country for GCSE results, is determined to use the report as a "catalyst for change". She said: "This report confirms what we have known since arriving at Hackney New School. There have been systematic failures across all areas of the secondary school.

"In the short time I have been here, it has become abundantly clear that I am working with students with tremendous potential, those with a limitless capacity and desire to achieve.

"This report is ground zero for Hackney New School secondary school. It is now in the hands of highly experience and skilled professionals with a proven track record of making rapid and sustained improvement at schools. We have no lesser ambition than to make this the very best secondary school in the area and the school of choice for the local community. Rest assured, I will not stop until we have achieved this goal."