Praise for turnaround at five venues

OUTWOOD Grange and the leadership of its chief executive and principal Michael Wilkins have been praised by successive Governments and credited with transforming the fortunes of five struggling schools across the North of England.

Teachers from the Wakefield school led by Mr Wilkins have helped to lift failing schools out of special measures and above the national target for GCSE pass rates since they became involved with the National Leaders in Education (NLE) programme five years ago.

Mr Wilkins has also been praised by politicians, including former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, for the impact his leadership has had as the head of the Outwood Grange Family of Schools.

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Outwood Grange has been brought in to raise standards at five schools across three education authorities through Mr Wilkins’s work as an NLE.

It has taken over the leadership of Harrogate High, Scalby School in Scarborough, North Doncaster Technology College – which has now closed and made way for an academy sponsored by Outwood, along with Thornaby Community School and St Patrick’s Catholic College both run by Stockton Council in the North East.

Each school has seen a marked improvement in results with education bosses in Doncaster, North Yorkshire and Stockton praising the role Outwood Grange has had on raising standards.

Ofsted reports have highlighted an increased focus on monitoring pupils’ performance – with every child getting regular evaluations throughout the year – as helping to drive up attainment. They also praise the use of a “consequences system” to improve pupil behaviour.

Before Outwood took over the leadership of the school, Harrogate High was getting less than 30 per cent of pupils to achieve five GCSEs A* to C grades including English and maths – which became a national benchmark all schools were expected to achieve under the last Government.

Since then this has risen to 44 per cent in two years. An Ofsted inspection of the school after Mr Wilkins was brought in praised Outwood Grange for strengthening the school’s leadership and giving it the capacity to improve.

The other four schools which Outwood Grange has worked with had all been judged to be failing and placed in special measures by education watchdog Ofsted.

Scalby School in Scarborough was placed in special measures in a damning inspection report in 2008 which found that leadership and governance, the quality of teaching, students’ behaviour and achievement all to be inadequate.

Over an 18-month period with Outwood Grange’s intervention it was transformed into a school rated as good by Ofsted – one of only three schools in the country to have achieved such a turnaround. Its GCSE results also leaped in this period from 33 per cent of pupils getting five good GCSEs including English and maths in the year it went into special measures to 69 per cent last summer.

North Doncaster Technology College was also branded as failing by Ofsted in 2008. After Outwood Grange was brought in, Ofsted inspectors noted that the partnership was “driving forward the necessary improvements at breakneck speed”.

A later inspection report said: “The unique partnership with Outwood Grange College is pivotal in securing the improvements necessary to remove the college from special measures.”

Mr Wilkins and Outwood Grange have also been deployed to two neighbouring schools in Thornaby-on-Tees which were both placed in special measures – Thornaby Community School, which is now an academy, and St Patrick’s Catholic College.

A Stockton Council spokesman said: “We brought in Outwood Grange to do a specific job at a time both schools were experiencing difficulties, having gone into special measures.

“In a relatively short time, the Outwood Grange team have made outstanding contributions in helping turn round both the former Thornaby Community School and St Patrick’s and achieving impressive progress in results.“

Since 2004 when Education Secretary of the day Charles Clarke praised Outwood Grange for raising standards, politicians have constantly highlighted Mr Wilkins as an example of a pioneering school leader.

Last year Mr Wilkins received an award from the National College for Recognition of Outstanding Contribution to System Leadership.