Ofsted report on struggling school ‘unfair’

A HIGHLY-critical inspection of a doomed school should not have been allowed to go ahead, it was claimed yesterday.

The headteacher, governors and a parents’ support group at Kimberworth Comprehensive School, Rotherham, have hit out at Government inspectors Ofsted for not taking full account of chronic staff shortages.

The school will close in

2004 as part of a major education reorganisation in the town and it is struggling to attract and keep its staff – a problem exacerbated by illness and the national teaching crisis.

On some days more than a quarter of staff are supply teachers but despite the school’s difficulties Ofsted’s routine inspection report highlighted “serious weaknesses”.

The report, which has not yet been made public, has angered headteacher Melvyn Whale who said some staff felt like they were being “kicked while they were down.”

He said: “We said to Ofsted that we really did not think it was the appropriate time to have an inspection.

“I am confident that we can address these issues in the next 12 months and most things are in hand but some of it may well hinge on the staffing situation.”

The decision to inspect the school also upset the Kimberworth Comprehensive Support Group, many of whom fought to keep it open.

A statement from the group claimed the inspection had been a “waste of money” as Ofsted had failed to take into account the threat of closure.

It added: “Rotherham Council guaranteed no child’s education would suffer with the plans for the North West area of Rotherham.

“This report confirms that the education of the children at Kimberworth is suffering now and the council needs to address this by providing realistic incentives and cash support for teaching staff from now until 2004.”

The closure of Kimberworth is part of a controversial Private Finance Initiative which will see 50m ploughed into school buildings across the borough to provide modern accommodation for pupils and teachers.

More than 5,500 people signed a petition to save the school as part of a campaign that also received backing from England goalkeeper David Seaman, a former pupil.

But council chiefs were eventually given the go-ahead to expand two secondary schools at Old Hall and Wingfield and to close Kimberworth.

Di Billups, executive director of education for Rotherham Council, strongly refuted claims that not enough had been done to retain staff.

She said 3,000 was being paid to teachers who stayed for at least two terms after the school merger took place.

She said: “In addition to this we are confident that in the new set-up there will be posts for all the teachers who want to stay.

“In fact we will need more teachers than we currently have at Kimberworth.”

Mrs Billups also pointed out that more money was being spent per pupil at Kimberworth than at any other school in Rotherham.

A spokeswoman for Ofsted said that while it was aware that the school had endured a recent history of difficulties, it still had to ensure it was providing adequate levels of education.

She said: “The inspection team would be aware of the circumstances of the school.”

She added: “One must remember that while a school is open it is providing an education for its pupils.”