My Week: Six days in the life of Jade Thickett, a pupil at the Ridings school, once branded Britain's worst

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The Independent Culture
Jade Thickett, 16, is a sixth-form pupil at the notorious Ridings School in Halifax, West Yorkshire. This week inspectors were amazed by the turnaround after it was branded Britain's worst school two years ago in the most damning inspection report for more than a decade. Now it's been taken off the list of failing schools.

Sunday

Me and my friend were house sitting for the evening. Talked for ages about how awful it's going to be for the next three days with the inspectors coming in to visit our school again and how we were dreading it. It felt like a really important test. Couldn't sleep for ages.

Monday

Met my friend and we got a lift to school. We knew then that the tension would start - what would the inspectors think? Would it be as bad as last time? We looked at each other and said, "We've got to do it - we've got to get it over and done with." I just hope they'll be more positive.

I'm pretty confident the inspectors will see an improvement. Things have changed so much in the past two years. It wasn't as bad as they said anyway - pupils attacking teachers and all that. It was more people just not concentrating in class. Since then little things have changed like the atmosphere. Before you could never even talk to teachers - now the relationship is so much better. The sixth form is much bigger as well.

It really started to change when Mrs White, our headteacher, arrived. That's when everyone realised that we had to get a grip.

My first class today was English and there was an inspector sitting at the back of the class. Dreaded the teacher would ask me to come up to the front. Sure enough, science in the afternoon, and the teacher asks me up to the blackboard - with the main inspector sitting in. Nerve-wracking. I just knew I had to get it right. He even asked to see my school work. I felt really confident showing it to him, though, and he seemed really chuffed. He left the class with a smile on his face and said that he had no worries.

Tuesday

It's a lot easier today - everyone knows the inspectors are here until tomorrow and what to expect. We're more prepared mentally. Chatted in the canteen to the inspectors - they ate with us and asked us about our work and what we were learning. Most of the time they walk around looking ever so stern and you don't know what they're thinking but they're quite friendly.

Wednesday

This morning was horrible - everyone was really tense, not knowing what the final results would be. We knew we couldn't cope with how the media were last time - camping outside and writing bad things about the school. Everything was so disrupted.

Then around lunchtime we found out the good news. We'd leapfrogged from the list of failing schools to normal. We expected to move up one but not two stages - apparently no school has improved that quickly before.

The teachers were smiling - they looked ecstatic. We're all so happy. Everyone was saying to each other, "I've got to phone my mam. I've got to phone my mam." When all the parents heard, they were so pleased and relieved.

Went to science class in the afternoon. Everyone was very relaxed. We talked about it a bit but then had to get on with our lesson - doing experiments with acid radicals.

Thursday

Got into school and had to do two press interviews with The Guardian and The Sun, which I really enjoyed. What was nice was knowing they were on our side this time; that they would say positive things. Last time, they were writing bad things about us. It gives you a lot of confidence to be proud of your school. I used to feel, "Oh no. What will people think if I say I'm at The Ridings?" Now I really enjoy spreading the word about how things have improved here. I never used to look forward to school but now I love it.

Both papers said they thought the school had done well. The Sun even apologised for standing outside for so long last time when we were so disrupted two years ago.

Friday

Back to normal at last. Everything feels so much better - we all know that we don't have to think about another inspection for ages. We can just get down to work and start looking forward.

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