New start for St Michael's Primary School
7:00am Wednesday 12th September 2012 in News
Last week marked a new year, a new curriculum and a new start for St Michael's Primary School.
The voluntary controlled Church of England school, the Helston area's second largest primary at 382 pupils on its rota, was left licking its wounds last term when Ofsted inspectors placed it in the bottom five per cent of the country and issued it with special measures.
Just six months after joining the school as headteacher, following a headship in Gloucester, it was a particular blow for Shaun Perfect, who had already started bringing in new measures when Ofsted made their unscheduled visit in March this year.
He has taken the criticism in his stride, however, and with the support of a new parents' forum, as well as governors and other schools in the area, has introduced a new curriculum, altered school hours and improved learning conditions.
Mr Perfect told the Packet: “St Michael's has a really good reputation in the town. I think it's had a knock, but it's going to come back stronger - stronger than ever. It's just lost its way a bit.”
One area that came in for criticism was the progress pupils made during their time at the school, particularly by boys. The new curriculum is designed to target this, with the school now teaching “thematic” lessons that incorporate the different subjects in a more interesting way.
“We want a curriculum that engages boys and girls but particularly boys, because it's more hands on,” said Mr Perfect.
“We looked at a range of different curriculum. This one [the Edison curriculum] was recommended to us. It teaches all the national curriculum subjects in a more meaningful, motivational and exciting way. It's much more hands on, there is much more interactivity; it's more creative.”
It will see reception classes getting outside to build dens in the woodland area of the grounds, which have been made more secure in order for them to be fully utilised.
Pupils will then bring the outdoors back inside the classroom, with a display to reflect the seasons. Year four's active theme will see children going to see Stomp at Truro's Hall For Cornwall, while year three's topic of Bright Sparks saw them putting on a fashion show for parents on only the second day of the new term.
The school day has been extended, to now end at 3.15pm. This extra 15 minutes is used for reading and storytelling each day, as a key skill to address [last year was writing], with parents and grandparents encouraged to go in to read.
Mr Perfect said: “It's valuing reading more and making sure it's got a clear place within the timetable. There have been so many pressures on the curriculum that the basics like that have been pushed out. We have restored that to our timetable.”
Changes have not been restricted to teaching, however. The appearance of the school has also been improved, in particular the infant block where fascias and windows have been replaced.
Michael's has developed close links with other schools in the area through the area's co-operative trust, in particular Parc Eglos Primary, Mullion Primary and Helston Community College. It was through this partnership that Claire Dornan has been seconded from her role on the leadership team at Parc Eglos to become acting deputy head at St Michael's for a year. This tackles another of the three key issues raised by Ofsted, which was to strengthen leadership and management.
“We were really grateful to Parc Eglos and Brett [Dye, headteacher] and their chair of governors for allowing her to be seconded to work with us,” said Mr Perfect. “That's the brilliant thing about being here in Helston. The local headteachers have been really supportive. Already we have done a lot of joint training, where we have gone to their schools and they have come to us.”
Ofsted inspectors returned to the school in July to assess progress and ruled that it was “satisfactory”, which Mr Perfect said was the best that could be achieved at that stage. “We're very pleased with where we are and very grateful for the support of the parents,” he said, adding that the school had not lost any children as a result of the Ofsted report. Summing up the changes and the school's future he said: “It's exciting. I just hope we get given the time to do it.”