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Magnus fails the test

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Parents of children at a Newark school were yesterday told special measures were required to bring the quality of education it provided up to an acceptable standard.

Ofsted inspectors were at the Magnus Church of England School on Thursday and Friday.

They highlighted key areas that needed urgent attention and at the end of the inspection told the headteacher, Mr Ian Anderson, that special measures were required.

Mr Anderson said he was already aware of the issues raised during his informal, 45-minute discussion with the inspectors on Friday afternoon.

He said the school, which has 1,111 pupils on the register, was committed to turning the situation around.

The school is not officially in special measures until its Ofsted report is signed off by the secretary of state for education and published at the end of June.

Parents were informed of the situation in a letter and were told what the school was doing to address the inspectors’ concerns.

A meeting with parents will take place after next week’s half-term holiday.

Mr Anderson, who took over as head from Mr Glenn Evans in September, said parents’ main concern was the school’s academic standards.

The last time Ofsted inspectors visited the school in 2005 they found test and examination results were significantly below average.

Mr Anderson said improvements were made last year and a lot of work had been done with the current year 11 pupils who were about to sit GCSEs.

He said pupils who were failing at GCSE level were starting to do other, equivalent qualifications that would help improve academic standards.

Mr Anderson said while attendance levels were another concern at the school, they had improved recently.

The school’s attendance record stands at 90% compared to 86% in 2006-7.

Schools are expected to achieve a 93% attendance record.

Mr Anderson said there had been a problem with year 10 pupils, aged 14 and 15, some of whom were at risk of dropping out of school.

He said new courses involving practical life skills were being introduced for these pupils and had helped to improve attendence.

“They still do the core subjects but, rather than opting for academic classroom subjects, we offer them alternatives,” he said.

Mr Anderson said another key area was pastoral support for pupils.

The school has scrapped heads of house and assistant heads of house, replacing them with four directors of learning and progress.

Mr Anderson said: “They have a key role in improving standards in their house groups of about 250 pupils.

“It is like a school within a school.”

The school has appointed pastoral managers for each house to look after the welfare and support of pupils.

“They have increased our capacity to support pupils who need help,” said Mr Anderson. “They are always available and have no other role in school.”

The school will be inspected at least twice a year until Ofsted agrees it is providing an acceptable standard of education and special measures can be removed.

The next inspection will be in the 2008-9 autumn term.

To come out of special measures the school will have to be at the top end of Ofsted’s satisfactory rating.

“What they are looking for are not short-term fixes,” said Mr Anderson. They look for improvement that are sustainable.”

Nottinghamshire County Council, the local education authority, is now obliged to give extra support to the Magnus.

Mr Anderson said the kind of support they would receive would be discussed at meetings with the council over the next two weeks.

As the Magnus is a Church of England school, support will also be given by the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham.

Mr Anderson said the Magnus was a school that Newark was very proud of in the past .

“In two years it will be a school that Newark will be proud of again,” he said.

“We have got to remember that it is a very, very different school from the old Magnus Grammar School.

“It is no longer a grammar school. It is a fully comprehensive school. It is not really fair to compare the two.”

Mr Anderson said he was in regular contact with members of the Old Magnusians’ Association.

“I am very aware of their reaction and their disappointment,” he said.

The history of the Magnus School stretches back nearly 500 years.

It has been at its current site on Earp Avenue since 1910.

It became a comprehensive school in the mid-1970s.

The school’s current existence as a mixed 11-18 comprehensive school began ten years ago when the old Magdalene High School and Thomas Magnus Upper School merged.

The Magnus is Mr Anderson’s first headship after his move from Wheldon School and Sports College in Carlton, Nottingham, where he was deputy head.

“I always enjoy a challenge and I have chosen to work in challenging schools because I think that is what I do best,” he said.

“I have got very supportive and committed staff. They know the implications of special measures and are up for the challenge.”

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