Blackheath Bluecoat School going out on the up

Blackheath Bluecoat headteacher and students, 5 June 2013

Remember Greenwich Council deciding to close Blackheath Bluecoat school, and councillors ignoring a protest by pupils to guzzle wine at a party over the road?

Well, the pupils have responded in the best possible way – by cracking on with their studies. The result…

Blackheath Bluecoat Church of England Secondary School is celebrating after being graded by OfSTED as ‘Good’ for the very first time.

In its last inspection three years ago, the school was judged to be ‘Satisfactory’ and in 2003 was in ‘Special Measures.’

May’s OfSTED inspection also judged Blackheath Bluecoat School ‘Good’ in each of the key judgements – Achievement, Teaching, Behaviour and Safety and Leadership and Management.

The ‘Good’ inspection report follows on from a long line of achievements since the school went into a federation with a more successful school in Wandsworth, Saint Cecilia’s, Wandsworth, also a Church of England School.

Since the federation was inaugurated in January 2009:

• The percentage of pupils attaining five good GCSEs (including English and Mathematics) has nearly doubled from 31% to 59% (the national average is 58%)
• The school was identified by The Schools Network as being in the top 10% of the most improving schools in England.
• Pupil absence has decreased from 7.9% to 4.9% (the national average is 5.7%)

The inspectors made a number of observations, the following amongst them:

“Students are thriving because they are well known as individuals and given the right amount of support they need to achieve well.”

“Students behave well in lessons and they are considerate of others around the school.”

“The good sixth form assists students in preparing well for the future.”

“Students feel safe and happy in school, largely as a result of good, mutually respectful relationships with one another and with staff who provide good quality care for students from all backgrounds and circumstances.”

Commenting on the report, Blackheath Bluecoat School’s Chair of Governors David Prescott said:

“This is a remarkable achievement by our Headteacher Barnaby Ash, the Senior Leadership Team, the staff and the pupils. The Governors were convinced that going into a federation with another successful school would transform Blackheath Bluecoat School and it has.

“It is bitter sweet news after seeing our Building Schools for the Future move to the Peninsula cancelled by this Government and the decision by Greenwich Council to close Blackheath Bluecoat School because of budget constraints caused by a declining number of pupils coming to the school.

“But the school is determined to continue to do its very best right until our last day of operation, which is why we created the banner to thank the pupils and inspire them to even greater exam success in the next few weeks. Hopefully we will be able to establish a new Church of England Secondary in the borough very soon, built on Blackheath Bluecoat School’s solid achievements, determination and hard work.”

Headteacher Barnaby Ash added:

“I am delighted that OfSTED has validated the enormous strides forward this school has made in recent years. It is a fitting testimony to the hard work of the staff and pupils in bringing about such a significant improvement in the school since 2009. The school has truly improved the life chances of pupils attending the school since the inauguration of the federation in 2009. It makes the fact that the school will be closed by Greenwich Council in 2014 even more poignant, and is clear evidence of what might have been possible if only we had been given more time.”

In five years or so, Greenwich borough will need more secondary school places… by which time Blackheath Bluecoat will be gone after 300 years, despite rapid and remarkable improvement. With its management team looking to open up a new school (presumably not under the council’s auspices), closing Blackheath Bluecoat may well prove to be one of the the council’s more dimly short-sighted decisions.

5 comments

  1. It is absolutely ridiculous that the council are even considering closing secondary schools when demand for places will be going through the roof in less than 3 years when the first bulge years currently in primary school start to come through to secondary. Where does the council think they’re going to go?

  2. I think it’s a real shame that the School will be closed. When I was at School I attended a school which was in a very similar position to the Blackheath Bluecoat School, as in it was struggling to attract new pupils due to its reputation, was in Special Measures and had a huge deficit budget. The hard work for staff and pupils to turn the school around paid off and 10 years later the school is now the one that every parent wants to send their children too, produces the highest score for parent satisfaction and also has the highest rate of A*-C in GCSE results. I think if Blackheath Bluecoat School was given the same time and opportunity to improve as my former school was then I have no doubt the admirable work for the staff and pupils would have turned into even greater achievements for the school. All the results point in that direction!

  3. The Council’s best point was that BB’s improvement was on the back on an unfeasibly large share of the Borough’s resources and that it would be unfair to other schools to continue on that basis. However the management link with the school in Wandsworth seemed to be working and I felt that it should have been given a couple more years to see if the word got round and numbers started to pick up. It was also strange that only a year previously the Council had suggested to BB that it should move to a site on the Greenwich Peninsula.

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