So the turnaround, in just two years, is remarkable. Inspectors report better exam results: first-ever A-level successes and 80 per cent of students with some GCSE passes. Staff morale has soared, and more children are enrolling - they even throng to chess and rock-climbing classes. Anna White, the new headteacher, has rightly been praised. But could lessons from The Ridings be learnt elsewhere?
Increased spending helped to produce this success. But the head was also given licence to expel warring pupils and sack bad teachers. Just as important, the school environment changed. Teachers learned an attitude of "zero tolerance". Excluded children who sought readmission had to pledge to follow language, behaviour and uniform codes. Regular inspections, plus efforts to get parents to be responsible for children's behaviour, helped to motivate staff and students. Crucially, the local education authority was pushed into action. These measures should be repeated elsewhere, even without comparable increases in funding.
Nationally, though 2 per cent of schools are failing, inspectors hint at generally better standards. After 10 years of a national curriculum, with new regular inspections, tests and league tables, a structure exists to encourage better teaching. And schools are likely to get more funding. Teachers should be pleased.
But teachers themselves are the greatest concern. Well trained teachers are necessary - 18 new ones were introduced at The Ridings - but they must be led well. As this case shows, headteachers must be trained to motivate, reward and even punish teachers - a point the Government recognised this week. Further, teachers need to know how to build a good rapport with students, and students must learn a sense of responsibility from their parents. Then teachers can get on with the rewarding and important work of educating, educating, educating.
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