Troubled school gets new leaders and £2 million boost

Paul Brockwell headteacher
Paul Brockwell headteacher

The new headteacher of troubled Graham School has announced it will get £2 million to help turn around its fortunes.

A new leadership team is now in place at Graham School following the retirement of Helen McEvoy after three rocky years as headteacher.

The incoming team is led by Rob Pritchard, who is now Graham School’s executive headteacher, and Paul Brockwell, who will be Ms McEvoy’s replacement as headteacher.

The pair have worked together successfully in the past and say they are “excited” at what awaits them.

Mr Brockwell said: “We have had such a warm welcome since starting here. The staff are wanting that opportunity to drive the school forward. There’s a lot of room for progress and I’ve met the pupils and introduced them to my team.

“We want to school to become a much bigger part of the community. We know it’s had a turbulent time, this is a time to do things right to make sure the kids do better so their life opportunities moving forward are increased.”

The pair are part of the Yorkshire Teaching School Alliance which is a partnership of 26 Yorkshire Secondary Schools, The University of York, Leeds Beckett University, York St John University and Leeds Trinity University.

Rob Pritchard, who is the Alliance’s lead for school to school support, has been teaching for 30 years and is a former Her Majesty’s Inspectors for Ofsted.

He said: “The Alliance is all about offering support to other schools and all working together when there is a need for help.

“Myself and Paul last joined Easingwold School in October when it was in special measures. We went there and improved it dramatically and have left it in a much better position to when we arrived.

“I am still headteacher of St John Fisher Catholic High School in Harrogate, a National Leader of Education and an Ofsted inspector, but I should have two days a week for Graham School a week to support the leadership team.”

The new leadership team has identified a number of areas for improvement already ahead of the publishing of the latest Ofsted report following an inspection of the Woodlands Drive school.

Mr Pritchard said: “We have had conversations across the school. Though we are waiting for an Ofsted report, we know from previous reports that we need to improve the quality of teaching.

“We know of concerns of low-level behaviour and need to look at how to make the children more aspirational and reward them when they achieve and also make the children aware of the consequences of what bad behaviour will be.”

The merging of the lower and upper schools has been brought forward to the end of June meaning all 1,100 pupils will be in the one building.

Improvements have been made at the upper school in anticipation of the merge including upgrading toilets, office spaces, redeveloping classrooms and enhancing technology.

The school has been earmarked £2million for a further build with eight classrooms, offices and toilets, which has been agreed by North Yorkshire County Council with hopes for it to be open by September 2018.

Mr Pritchard said: “We are closing the school on Friday June 23 to enable us to complete the move and when everyone returns on Monday June 26, the school will be on one site.

“At the moment everything is doubled up. It affects everything in terms of timetable etc.

“We’re all really looking forward to it.

“The move will also save the school a tremendous amount of money.”

Easingwold School is now to become an academy following their hard work of turning the school’s fortunes around.

Asked whether this could be the same process for Graham School, Mr Pritchard said: “I will only say yes because that’s what the government says for schools such as this. The time frame, we really don’t know. All I am told is there is no sponsor lined up at this time.”

Mr Brockwell said: “Our aim is to make this school and outstanding school. We are looking at this to be a long- term project. We believe this school is on a journey to being outstanding.”

Graham School was found to be below average in the performance league tables designed to measure pupils’ progress during their time at school last year.

The school’s Progress 8 score was -0.57 in 2016, compared to the national average of 0, while its Attainment 8 score fell short of national (48.5) and North Yorkshire (51.8) averages with a lowly 40.7.

However, the positive duo are adamant they are the right people to improve Graham School and are keen to meet with parents to share their vision with them.

Mr Brockwell said: “We have to get the trust of parents. We have got a team of very experienced educationalists who have a track record of success. What we have seen so far is very positive. We’re here to improve and we want to engage with parents so in the next few weeks we will be holding open meetings to parents to introduce ourselves.

“We can have one to ones to share what we’re doing. The communication with parents is absolutely vital so we can work together for the benefit of the kids.”