Feature – ‘We’ve all pulled together to change fortunes of Alton Park Junior School’
THIS time last year, Alton Park Junior School was in dire straits.
Ofsted inspectors had not long slapped it with a damning report and its ability to follow educational protocols was being called into question.
The Clacton school’s buckling infrastructure, for example, was failing to provide its 400-plus pupils with sufficient safeguarding and little was being done to prevent displays of bad behaviour from further diminishing its reputation.
The quality of teaching was also deemed to be inadequate and, according to Government figures, just 13per cent of the school’s pupils were achieving the expected target in reading, writing, and maths – the lowest across junior schools in the area.
As a result, the seaside town school was forced into special measures and its future looked as turbulent.
Something drastic had to change and it wasn’t long before the Sigma Trust was parachuted in to provide support.
“By this point, all the leadership, except a deputy headteacher, had either moved on or were taking time off due to illness,” said Jeff Brindle, the chief executive of the Sigma Trust.
“The school had a lot of temporary staff and was in real crisis, it had been through a really tough time.
“Everyone felt insecure, and it is crucial, particularly in this community, that the children feel secure and cared for.
“The children need to know someone is going to be there for them tomorrow as well as today.
“So, the immediate need was to get experienced staff in for the start of September. A lot had to be done.”
One of those professional staff members was new headteacher Nicky Sirett, who was initially coerced in to lead the turnaround on an interim basis.
But after “falling in love” with the school, she opted to make it a permanent relationship and ended up staying on.
She said: “The children didn’t feel safe or happy within the school and the Ofsted report was an accurate reflection of that time.
“But I felt there was great potential in the student population.
“I was quickly saying I wanted to commit to it.
“I really wanted to help move it on for everybody. I do like a bit of a challenge.”