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Friday, 13 July 2012 07:08

The Mystery of St Philip Howard Catholic Primary School, Herne Bay

This week's published OFSTED Report on St Philip Howard RC Primary School in Herne Bay which places it in Special Measures is one of the most damning Reports I have read in recent years, the school being placed in the lowest category in all four measures considered by the Inspectors. Parents have clearly recognised this pattern of failure of recent years, as it occupies the lowest take up of any primary school in the county this year, with 76% of its reception places due to be left empty in September, just 7 children applying for and being offered places back in March out of the 30 available. For 2011 entry, it had the second lowest intake in Kent with 56% of its places being left empty. Overall, it currently has over half of all its places empty with just 100 children out of a capacity 210. Poor KS2 performance by the children may indicate one of the reasons for the lack of popularity of the school, it appearing in the bottom 5% of all schools in the county for performance in English & maths in 2011. 

So what is the mystery, and why am I devoting space analysing this issue? In May, Michael Gove announced the names of the 261 schools to be awarded funds for refurbishment, including 14 from Kent. At the time  I wrote an article expressing my bewilderment at some of the schools chosen, highlighting St Philip Howard, given the pressures on the many schools in need of critical improvement or even replacement. This latest news makes the decision even more bewildering............


Here we have a failing school, apparently unnecessary in terms of numbers of children taking up places having enormous funds being showered upon it, ahead of other schools  who are succeeding in spite of working in dreadful premises. As the Chairman of Governors writes in what purports to be an OFSTED summary, as required to be sent to parents: "As you will have heard, St Philip Howard Catholic Primary School has been selected by the government to be either entirely or greatly rebuilt. More information will follow on this over the coming months. In addition to the planned rebuild, the school have also received over £100k to be spent on refurbishment of the facade and windows at the front of the school. This work will be done during the academic year 2012-2013. Finally, the Local Authority has recently agreed to make funds available immediately for a whole series of internal works and also for teaching resources.  By September, we expect these improvements to be completed and the new resources in place". Internal works and a new facade which appear to be both temporary if a new school is to be built to replace the exisiting one. 

In fact, this letter is a masterpiece in avoiding the issues. A couple of quotes: "The inspector did say that it is often the case that being in the special measures category is better that heading towards it as access to resources and expertise is greatly increased. We have already seen evidence of this as you will see below". "Naturally we are disappointed by the judgement but many of the comments were anticipated and for some time the headteacher, the school staff and governors have been working to remedy the issues raised. The report acknowledges this. Please allow us then to guide you through the report, highlighting some of the principal judgements and commenting on our initial response and plans for the future". 

Some excerpts from the Report: "Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector is of the opinion that this school requires special measures because it is failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education and the persons responsible for leading, managing or governing the school are not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvement. This is not a satisfactory school because pupils are not learning to read and write well enough and they have significant gaps in their understanding of mathematics. Teachers are not pitching work at the right level to meet pupils’ needs and the curriculum does not always engage pupils well enough. Pupils’ behaviour is inadequate and lessons are sometimes disrupted. The schools’ leadership has been ineffective in addressing these shortcomings. Achievement is inadequate because of weaknesses in teaching which impact adversely on pupils’ progress over time. The curriculum does not ensure skills are learnt in the right order nor are basic literacy and numeracy skills practised across a range of subjects. Teaching overall is inadequate and not enough is good or better. There is too much inconsistency in the teaching of letters and sounds (phonics) so pupils are confused by different systems. Too often, teachers are not able to extend pupils’ learning because they do not manage behaviour effectively enough. Typically, behaviour is not good enough with too much that is inadequate in lessons. However, pupils are kept safe and are cared for adequately. Further strengths include the provision for pupils’ spiritual awareness through prayer, and their social and cultural development through music, sport and links with the community. Leadership of teaching is inadequate. The governing body form an enthusiastic team who ask challenging questions. They are motivated and ambitious for the school to do better and they ensure that safeguarding arrangements meet requirements. They know that the building is not, in its current state, as suitable for meeting pupils’ needs as it could be".

A new Executive headteacher has been appointed for September, Mrs Annemarie Whittle currently head of a Catholic School in Tonbridge, so she will be spending a considerable amount of time on the road between the two schools. She has a big job to do, perhaps assisted by the small numbers of children she will be looking after in Herne Bay.  

Last modified on Wednesday, 16 October 2013 07:28


  • Comment Link Friday, 15 February 2013 09:59 posted by P. O'Connor

    Hi Peter, an interesting piece and it is indeed a mystery. I must respond to the earlier comment by 'P. Adams' that another school is "poaching parents from SPH with false dreams and broken dreams". This is nonsense that has been peddled for a while by those trying to explain away falling pupil numbers at St Philip Howard while they are either working or sending their children to a failing or inadequate school. Other schools do not need to 'poach' pupils, they are oversubscribed because they are 'good' schools. Adams' and the Chair's (referred to in your main article) comments are indicative of a bunker mentality that ignores facts.....READ THE 2012 OFSTED!

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 09 January 2013 19:45 posted by P Adams

    Dear Sir,

    Firstly, you have made quite a few false assumptions (paragraph starting with "Here we have...") which is a great shame.

    Secondly, were you aware that another local Catholic school had been very shamelessly 'poaching' parents away from SPH with false promises and broken dreams for their children (who people seem to forget so quickly when money and popularity is involved)? Pause for thought. PETER: A pity you don't identify any of the false assumptions, as I am always happy to correct errors. Crucially, you fail to address the issue of St Philip Howard's failed OFSTED which I described as "one of the most damning I have read in recent years" (and I have read a lot!). Quite rightly, no parent would wish their child to attend a failing school, and one wonders how the Catholic Church, which has responsibility for the school, allowed this to happen, although it is not the only Catholic School to fail.

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