Special measures for failing St Catherine's

By Kelly Thornham A HALIFAX Catholic school has been placed in special measures after a damning Ofsted report.

Inspectors branded St Catherine's Catholic High School in Holmfield "inadequate" for failing to give pupils an acceptable standard of education.

It is only the second secondary school in Calderdale to be branded as failing since The Ridings 10 years ago.

The Government education watchdogs' report criticises some teachers for failing to "engage, challenge or inspire" pupils, which has resulted in poor student progress.

Management was blasted for failing to tackle poor pupil achievement and provide clear direction. Inspectors were critical of school governors for their lack of challenge and the curriculum was labelled inadequate for failing to meet "the diverse needs of many pupils for courses beyond the boundaries of traditional school subjects."

Falling attendance rates were also flagged up as an issue for concern by inspector Sara Morrissey when she visited the school last month.

In her report, she states: "Lessons are dominated too often by teacher talk, with few opportunities for pupils to take responsibility for their learning.

"Pupils spend too much time on dull, undemanding tasks that do not engage, challenge or inspire."

The most recent GCSE league table revealed that just 41 per cent of pupils achieved five A* to C passes or more in 2005, but acting head Mike Woods said unvalidated results for this summer showed there had been a dip to around 35 per cent.

The school's head teacher of 12 years, Michael Savage, recently retired and Mr Woods, head of Corpus Christi Catholic College in Leeds, has been appointed executive head until a replacement is appointed.

Mr Woods said the school accepted all criticism and promised pupils and parents a transformation "in record time" with the aim of being removed from special measures inside a year.

He said: "It is a good school with committed people who have got into tem-

porary difficult waters." A new leadership structure has already been put in place, with more emphasis on accountability.

And Mr Woods said a new monitoring system would be introduced to track achievement and create clear targets.

A Calderdale Council spokesman said: "The council will work closely with the school in providing it with a full range of additional support to ensure that it emerges from special measures as quickly as possible."

Sue McMahon, Calderdale National Union of Teachers division secretary, said: "What is supposed to be a light touch regime is now heavy handed and punitive where Ofsted are constantly moving the goalposts."

She added: "What is needed now is support not criticism."

Halifax Labour MP Linda Riordan said: "The school needs a permanent head as soon as possible in order to get the school turned around and be able to give the children a good education."

Latest figures from Ofsted show that 208 schools in the country were in special measures in the summer term. The school will now undergo a rigorous monitoring regime and receive support from the council and Diocese of Leeds.

If it does not improve within a year it could face the threat of closure.

A spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Leeds said nobody was available to comment.