Holly Hall Academy trust boss vows to 'absolutely and utterly' transform failing school

Holly Hall Academy was rated 'inadequate across the board in its latest Ofsted report, dropping down from a third tier 'requires improvement' rating from 2016.

Chair of the Dudley Academies Trust, Lowell Williams
Chair of the Dudley Academies Trust, Lowell Williams

Dudley College principal Lowell Williams is chair of the Dudley Academies Trust, which took over the running of the school in October 2017.

Here he addresses some of the issues raised in the report, and explains how the Trust is aiming to turn around the school's fortunes – including plans for a rebuild on the academy's Scotts Green Close site.

Overall thoughts on the report

"The report is disappointing because it does highlight problems that the school has had in recent years, but there were some interesting green shoots that have been recognised by Ofsted.

"We are delighted that they looked very carefully at the plans that the Academy Trust has put in place and noted them very favourably in the report.

"I am pleased that they have recognised that because of the Trust the school has the capacity to improve.

"So whilst the report about the school’s current position is disappointing, it is good to see Ofsted recognising a potential positive future.

"We think the report is accurate. We have not challenged its findings at all. It now gives us a platform to work on to drive the performance forward.

"My reassurance to parents is that they should trust the judgement of Ofsted. They reviewed all of the Trust’s extensive plans and endorsed them in full.

"We have a new headteacher in place and we have strengthened senior staffing arrangements with additional staff.

"There is a leadership programme well underway for the key senior managers to develop their practice.

"There’s a new approach to teaching and learning that is being rolled out across the school.

"There’s been a revised curriculum offer that is already been in place, additional support provided by the college as an outstanding provider, and there is a new approach to student conduct.

"So parents have got many, many things that they can draw from to give them the confidence that the school is absolutely moving in the right direction.

"One of the best thing that has happened is the amazing response we have had from the children at the school over the last two months, when we began to change everyone’s expectations.

"The students are really passionate about improving their own performance."

The Trust's plans for the school

"I think it is fair to say there has been an underinvestment in the school over a number of years, both in capital and in terms of increased support for the staff.

"One of the reasons the school was brought in with the Academies Trust is that we are able to provide support in terms of cash and investment and in terms of developing people.

"Right now there is a programme of remedial work that is planned for the school which is about putting right some issues concerned with windows, heating, electrics, furniture and classrooms…things which affect the general ambience of the school.

"There is a significant investment in technology that will go in in early September when the curriculum is revised, and a model called ‘Learning for Life’, where students work on a project based approach, particularly in Year 7, with all students having access to a hand held device.

"Then there is a strategic appraisal on the school site itself. It is a substantial site with lots of opportunities to develop it, but there has been no strategic plan as to how that could happen.

"We are looking in detail at what we can do with the site.

"We have lots of ambitions going forward.

"I anticipate, although I can’t guarantee, that there is likely to be a major rebuild on that site at some point in the next two to three years.

"There is additional capital expenditure planned for the school. Holly Hall will be an absolutely and utterly changed school over the next 12 to 18 months."

Ofsted's criticisms of behaviour at the school

"The report does say that safeguarding arrangements are very strong indeed.

"We are not concerned about behaviour at Holly Hall. Where there are instances of poor behaviour it tends to be low level disruption in classrooms, which is partly the fact that the children are not being adequately stimulated during their lessons.

"As we change the expectations of teaching and students those behaviour issues are disappearing quickly.

"There is not a bullying culture.

"The report did not find that, but I think we need to be vigilant across Dudley as a whole to make sure the behaviour of our young people and how they treat each other is of the highest standard.

"We will be reinforcing the values of respect and tolerance in everything we do."

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