HIGHFIELDS: ‘We WILL IMPROVE’

Eddie Wilkes, the new headteacher at Highfields School, Matlock.
Eddie Wilkes, the new headteacher at Highfields School, Matlock.
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School watchdogs say “significant improvements” must be made at Highfields in Matlock following a two-day inspection.

Ofsed inspectors rated the school as “inadequate” and have given it “a notice to improve” so students can progress better in all subjects - including English and maths.

Their report, carried out last month, also highlights a lack of student achievement and progress and they call for a broadening of the curriculum so it meets the needs of all students.

But inspectors confirm that the new headteacher – Eddie Wilkes – and a strong plan of action means the school is on the right track for improvement.

They acknowledge the “robust action” taken by Mr Wilkes and the senior team to improve the quality of education and the “good” progress and “above average” results in the school’s sixth form.

Mr Wilkes said when he took over the school in April he was aware of the problems.

He added: “We’re obviously disappointed to be given a notice to improve.

“We are hoping people read past page one and all the bad news as after that the report talks a lot about what the school has done. Things are already being tackled.”

Mr Wilkes said he was clear about what needed to be done and the Ofsted inspectors recognised the school’s ability to improve and drive up standards.

He added: “Our staff are on board, they want things to improve. They want the feedback and they want to do better.

“We have done lots of things already and we are going to do a lot more. I’m so confident that things will improve.

“We are vigorously tracking the progress of all our students and expect each of them to make better progress and achieve even better results.

“Staff and governors are all committed to continue making the changes necessary to ensure Matlock and the surrounding area has an outstanding school.”

Mr Wilkes said parents had raised concerns about the inspectors’ findings although the report states the majority of parents “are positive about their children’s enjoyment of school and almost all believe that the school keeps their children safe.”

Parents and carers who spoke to the inspection team also commented favourably on the positive impact of the new headteacher.

Mr Wilkes said: “We are in discussions with parents and we would invite them to come to Highfields. If we can get people through the doors to see how the school operates we know that is our biggest selling point.”

Changes the school will be making or has made already includes giving pupils more feedback, rigorous and regular assessments and focusing on students who are struggling.

The school also wants to improve communication with parents.

Councillor Mike Longden, Derbyshire County Council’s cabinet member for education, said: “It’s always a worrying time when a school is given a notice to improve.

“We all want this popular school to be a good school where all pupils do well.

“Our advisors are working closely with the school and decisive, swift and positive action will secure the necessary improvements as quickly as possible.”

Highfields School has 1,367 pupils on role aged between 11 and 18.

Parents are invited to a meeting at Highfields on Tuesday, November 1 at 6.30pm at the Upper School site.