‘Every student important’ at North Devon secondary

Pilton Community CollegePilton Community College has been designated a ‘centre of excellence’ as part of a new global learning programme.

Posted on: 30 November 2016

A North Devon secondary school’s intense focus on doing the very best for every individual student has been praised by education inspectors.

They say Pilton Community College promotes an inclusive, caring, harmonious and respectful culture where pupils are looked after and cared for well.

The college’s curriculum is well matched to the needs of pupils and linked effectively with good careers guidance so that almost every pupil progresses to post-16 courses, training or apprenticeships that meet their needs or aspirations.

But the inspectors, from the school standards agency Ofsted, say this means the college does not always figure as highly as it might in government league tables.

“Leaders recognise that the choice of qualifications, while entirely suitable for these pupils, means that some score poorly in the government’s school performance measures,” says lead inspector James Sage.

But he concludes: “They are rightly more concerned with providing an appropriate curriculum to ensure good progression when pupils leave the school at the end of Year 11.”

However, says Mr Sage, this means that he has to rate the school as requiring improvement because all pupils do not make consistently strong progress across all year groups and the quality of teaching in some subjects, including maths, needs to be improved.

Today Pilton principal, Louise Miller-Marshall, said:

“We believe fundamentally that we are here to do our very best for each and every individual student, even if that sometimes means we do not register as highly as we might in some national performance tables.

“I am pleased that the inspectors recognised this focus on each student as an individual but I would point out that this past summer 59 per cent of our students gained five or more GCSEs, including English and maths, compared with the national figure for state-funded schools of 57 per cent and the Devon figure of 58.3 per cent.”

This term Pilton joined the Devon-based Ventrus Multi-Academy Trust and a number of school improvement initiatives were under way as a result of the new status on top of measures that were already in place when the inspectors arrived last month.

Half of the college’s senior leadership team is newly in place and a new assistant principal is to be appointed. Changes have also been made in the leadership of some subjects.

Ms Miller-Marshall said this September the maths curriculum had been re-structured and extra maths teaching staff had been appointed.

The new approach to teaching maths was much more enquiry-led and stretched students much more, she said.

The Ventrus Trust will also be collaborating with the Uffculme Academy Trust. This includes Uffculme College which is among the highest performing comprehensive schools in the country and has been twice rated as outstanding by Ofsted.

Ms Miller-Marshall said: “Obviously I am disappointed with Ofsted’s overall judgement but we were already making improvements to the areas that they highlighted and our membership of the Ventrus Multi-Academy Trust will give us access to expertise that will help us to speed up these improvements.

“I am pleased that the inspectors recognised the effectiveness of our specialist languages status, our success in involving parents in the life of the school and the way that students enjoy and achieve well in a wide range of subjects and participate enthusiastically in the ‘very wide’ range of enrichment activities we provide.”

Ms Miller-Marshall said she was also proud of the inspectors’ verdict on Pilton’s safeguarding and the good behaviour of students.

Ofsted concluded: “There is a strong culture of safeguarding in the school. Pupils feel safe and are kept safe.

“Pupils are confident, articulate and highly supportive of the school.”

But the inspectors said that Pilton’s former academy board of directors did not effectively hold school leaders to account for the under-performance in maths and some other subjects.

Chair Jo Lock said: “We recognise the criticisms and we are looking forward to sharpening the focus of our school improvement work with the range of expertise provided by Ventrus.”

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