THE problems surrounding the state of secondary education in the town have deepened after a Catholic high school was deemed “inadequate” by Ofsted inspectors.
St Augustine of Canterbury School at Blackbrook was judged to have “serious weaknesses” following a visit by the education watchdog.
The achievement of pupils and quality of teaching were both judged “inadequate”, while management and leadership both require improvement.
The poor report comes just weeks after Michael Cladingbowl, Ofsted’s regional director for the North West, criticised the state of secondary education in St Helens.
His report stated just 47per cent of pupils in the borough attended a secondary school that is ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’, meaning the town is lagging behind neighbouring boroughs and cities.
There is alarm about why the standard of education is generally good at primary level before dipping in St Helens high schools.
The town does not have one outstanding high school, though Haydock, Rainhill and Cowley were ranked as good following the most recent inspections.
St Augustine’s disappointing report will increase the pressure on education bosses and head teachers to ensure schools raise their game.
The Boardmans Lane school is criticised by Ofsted for underachievement among pupils at GCSE level, particularly in English, while not enough teaching is consistently good.
Marking of work does not help students know how to improve and learning activities are not always imaginative and relevant enough to ensure pupils’ understanding is deepened.
Brighter news for the school is that behaviour and safety of pupils is regarded as good. Bullying is rare, pupils feel safe and their spiritual, moral and social development is also good.
Head teacher Linda Mousdale and governors are said to have taken decisive action to deal with weaknesses among teachers, which has led to improvements, particularly in maths. In response, St Helens Council and the Liverpool Archdiocese said they believe weaknesses are already being addressed but added that external support would aim to hasten progress.
A joint statement read: “The report recognises that the leadership at the school are already taking decisive action and, as a result, teaching and achievement are improving. We know the staff at the school are working hard to turn things around, but we will also be introducing measures to speed up improvements.
“Both the council and the Archdiocese are already working closely with the school to strengthen the support we provide – and have brought in an excellent and highly-regarded former HM Inspector to work with schools – including St Augustine’s – that need help.
“Other ‘outstanding’ schools across the north west have also been identified and will be bringing their expertise to bear at schools in St Helens, along with specialist leaders in subjects like English and maths.
“We will also be working with school governors to strengthen their roles in enhancing school performance.
“Our School Improvement Team has evolved over the past 12 months to respond to changing requirements. This includes seconding outstanding head teachers to support our schools – enhancing the team’s reach, powers and commitment.”
A task force – commissioned by St Helens Council – is reviewing the health of education across the borough after the need for improvements were made a priority last year.
The council stressed that the regional director does not take account of the fact that A-level results in St Helens are good and many children are the first in their families to go to university.