Coronavirus halts troubled Walsall school’s progress

Coronavirus may have prevented a troubled Walsall school from being taken out of special measures, councillors have been told.

The Stroud Avenue Family Centre in Willenhall. Photo: Google
The Stroud Avenue Family Centre in Willenhall. Photo: Google

Work to create a temporary new home for New Leaf Centre pupil referral unit (PRU) while it waits to move into a new school building can now proceed after planning permission was granted.

Around £850,000 will be spent converting Stroud Avenue Family Centre and Spindle Tree Rise children’s home site in Willenhall to accommodate staff and pupils.

At a planning committee meeting on Thursday, head teacher Stuart Evans told members that New Leaf had made significant strides forward in the past two years.

It was plunged into special measures following a damning Ofsted report in April 2018, which said the existing Rushall building was in poor condition.

Inspectors also witnessed children swearing at each other, fire alarms being set off and youngsters attempting to smash through locked doors.

But monitoring reports since then have noted significant progress being made and Mr Evans said they had expected a positive report in July, before lockdown happened.

He said: "Much media attention was made in April 2018 about the Ofsted inspection of New Leaf Centre and quite rightly.


"But subsequently, we’ve seen quite a stabilisation of the school since then over two years since then in terms of staffing that we’ve employed.

"I’ve been appointed as the substantive head teacher and the subsequent monitoring inspections have all noted that we’re taking effective action towards the removal of special measures.

"To the point of this summer, Covid allowing, we would have had a section five inspection and it was on the cards to remove us from special measures and put us either to requiring improvement or good.

"Much of the improvements have been around the staffing and the curriculum that we deliver to the extent that there are fewer negative incidents of poor behaviour."

When asked what impact the temporary building would have on the performance of the PRU, he said moving there would "without doubt be beneficial".

Walsall Council has previously approved plans to spend £7.5 million on a permanent new home to be based in Bloxwich.

It is anticipated that, once work starts, it will take eight weeks to complete the temporary school in Willenhall.

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