Parents bemused by verdict on primary school: Governors are disappointed with inspectors' findings, writes Malcolm Pithers

MOST PUPILS, parents and teachers at Crook Primary School in Co Durham seemed somewhat bemused by the report which will inevitably leave it branded one of the worst schools in Britain.

Rehearsals for Christmas plays continued regardless yesterday, but many parents and teachers were not at all pleased with the unwelcome and dramatic attention of the school inspectors. According to the inspectors, who spent a week at the school in October, the teachers are failing the children by poor teaching methods and for allowing bad behaviour in class.

Most parents, with one or two exceptions, yesterday seemed to think that the inspectors might well have made serious mistakes themselves in identifying the primary school as one of the worst in the land. In fact the chairman of the governors, Bob Pendlebury, said he and the other governors had difficulty in recognising the school, as they knew it.

Crook town (pop: 6,379), which once survived on coal but now thrives with grocer shops, light industry and Barbour jackets, is a few miles north-west of Bishop Auckland. The local school, where Kathleen Brown is headmistress, has 369 pupils aged between four and 11, the primary part has recently been disrupted by its formation from two separate schools and a move into a new part of the building.

Yesterday, as pupils and parents arrived at the school, most were completely unaware of the impending notoriety, of the threat of special measures and that there was 'considerable underachievement' amongst the children. When the news did emerge later in the day, everyone seemed completely baffled by the report's findings.

Michael Cooper, 33, a quality assurance manager, who lives with his wife Anne, 32, a clerical officer, a few yards from the school, said: 'I am quite satisfied with the school. My son Dean is progressing well there. I am very surprised by the report. I think a child's behaviour is down to the parents to a large degree, but teachers also play an important part. At this school they seem to be doing a good job.'

The teachers refused to speak to reporters and purposely pulled down classroom blinds. People who arrived at the school were met in the reception area by a poster which read: 'In Crook Primary School we will be polite and friendly, be helpful and kind, work hard and quietly, be careful and sensible and look after each other.'

Mr Pendlebury, chairman of the governors, issued a statement saying that the governors were 'both concerned and disappointed' to receive the report. He said: 'We have difficulty in recognising Crook Primary School, as we know it, in much of what it has to say.'

The governors did acknowledge there were some areas of the school which did need further development but singled out references in the report to children's bad behaviour as not being in accord 'in any way' with their longstanding knowledge of the school.

Mr Pendlebury added: 'We are still not certain against which norms the school has been judged.'

There were some critical voices however. One man, whose wife is a teacher at another school and whose four- year-old son is a pupil at Crook, said: 'We do feel the teachers have no control over the children. The report is probably just what the school needs - a good kick up the backside.'

(Photograph omitted)

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