From exceptional to inadequate in just six years - just what is going on at St Mary’s?
Parents, staff, governors and past employees have contacted the Observer to express concern about what is happening and what the future might hold.
One was Mary West who says she has just been asked to stand down as governor in light of the Ofsted report.
She said: “I have been a governor for six years, and have become increasingly concerned about the way the school is being led and managed.
“When I started the school was rated as outstanding. Two and a half years ago it was good with elements of outstanding, it has now failed in every area, the major changes since that time have been in leadership and management.”
She highlighted the departure of longstanding members of staff and said: “The entire senior leadership team has gone. It begs the question why? The school is in real trouble.”
Past parent governor Ian Cross said: “It is a tragedy to see the way the school has gone down in such a short space of time. It is very sad.”
Leslie and Vijaya Gonsalves have a son at St Mary’s and are “very concerned” with the failures outlined in the Ofsted report especially around safeguarding.
Vijaya said: “We find it very difficult to accept that the school leadership has the ability to continue to safeguard and care for our vulnerable child,” while Leslie added: “There has been a huge loss of good, experienced and caring senior staff in the past 18 months, which has curtailed our child’s development. The school is missing a mentor, as in a head teacher.”
They were optimistic however that Chair Don Young would be able to lead, and bring about change, and felt “there is some good still at the school.”
Past parent Isobel Vass contacted the Observer to say she felt it wrong of the leadership to blame current problems at school on the way it was run in the past and make claims it needed modernisation. Isobel said: “The school was run extraordinarily well. Everything was incredibly well structured and evaluated.” She felt St Mary’s had made a “profound difference” to her children’s lives and added: “To see now it is deteriorating is a great shame.” She felt movement of staff was “disrupting progress” but added: “Broadly I can see it still is a happy school.”
Former principal David Cassar commented: “I was shocked and very saddened to hear the news that St Mary’s has been put into special measures. When I retired from St Mary’s, in 2009, we had just received yet another ‘outstanding’ report from the Ofsted inspectorate. The report contained well over 50 grade 1 levels and every aspect of the school and college were described as outstanding.
“The staff at St Mary’s were magnificent people, very professional and enormously knowledgeable about the students we had in our care.
“My understanding is that the majority of these people have now gone; 140 of them have left in the last two years alone. No organisation can succeed when so much expertise is lost. Questions have to be asked why it is such dedicated staff have left St Mary’s in such huge numbers.”