Dear Parents and Carers,


The purpose of this letter is to explain to you what the school is doing in some key areas, in order to address the criticisms within the January OFSTED report.  Much of this work has already started and the next steps had already been planned, but there are a small number of additional developments in response to OFSTED’s comments as well.  


Key Stage 3 Curriculum

OFSTED made repeated comments that our Key Stage 3 curriculum was unfit for purpose and did not prepare our students for Key Stage 4.  They based this judgement on the fact that students narrowed their curriculum at the end of Year 8 and chose options: OFSTED believe that breadth should remain in Year 9.  We were doing this to allow students three years to increase their focus and time to succeed at Key Stage 4: this is a curriculum that many schools follow and nationally headteachers in similar schools to ours have been very vocal about the need for it.

With immediate effect, we have changed our curriculum in response to the criticism.  This will affect students in current Years 7 and 8, and future years.  Options will now be taken at the end of Year 9.  However, students in Year 8 will be given a guided choice option to allow them still some choices around Technology, Arts and Enrichment subjects.  Geography, History and Modern Languages will now continue into Year 9 for all students rather than being optional: this was OFSTED’s main complaint.

Only 5% of students study the EBACC pathway

The EBACC means that students study English, Maths, two Sciences, Geography or History and a Modern Language.  In this school, all students study English, Maths and at least two Sciences.  Most students study History or Geography.  Many fewer students study a language.  This means in practice that most of our students achieve four EBACC subjects, but not five.  We have operated on a belief that our students and their parents are best-placed to decide on their option pathway.  OFSTED do not believe we are being ambitious enough for our students: we should insist that more of them follow the EBACC academic pathway.

With effect from our current Year 8 students, we will be introducing some new “pathways” when they reach Year 10.  This means that more of our students will be encouraged to follow this more academic pathway: we think it is reasonable that our more academic students can be encouraged to follow it.  We also recognise that for many of our students, this pathway will also not be appropriate.

SEND students

You will likely be aware that Stockport local authority received an equally harsh report from OFSTED on SEND, and we know it is an area where they have been critical across most schools.  In our school, SEND students do generally achieve in line with their potential: we support them well I believe.  Their criticism centred around the way we record some students within our procedures, and how we communicate this to staff.  We have been completing this in the way that Stockport Local Education Authority have asked us to complete it.  OFSTED stated that this procedure was not rigorous enough.  Since the inspection, I have invited the new SEND Strategic Lead for Stockport to come in and spend some time with us, and she has provided us with more precise guidance.  We are now awaiting a formalised new procedure from Stockport local authority, which should be received this month.

Tackling poor attendance

Attendance is an acknowledged issue in Stockport.  In Spring 2019, I started to work here with a national attendance consultant Victoria Franklin.  As a result of this, she started to work with Stockport local authority to improve procedures there.  She works directly with them, and with us as a school, to improve the systems for attendance.  At Easter 2019, we employed a new attendance lead and extra social work intervention.  In September 2019, we employed a new Education Welfare Officer, new Family Liaison Worker and a whole new approach to attendance.  

The attendance consultant confirms we need more time to make a difference.  The team are working very well: we have received recognition at a national attendance conference for our work, and we are advising other “good” schools in Stockport even this week on how they can improve their systems.

Most of our students attend in line with expectation: too many do not though.  We continue to work on this.  We would have improved our attendance in the autumn term were it not for the Norovirus - on some days we had over 250 students absent due to this.  We have so far improved our attendance this term.  But long term change in attendance involves changing habits for some children and families.  We are doing that, and we have already had some major successes.

In addition, the school is working with Stockport MBC to sort out bus pass issues with some families who were not able to secure one in the Brinnington area.  This is directly affecting the ability of some children to come into school.  We are also starting some parent drop-in facilities.

Exam results

Many of our students achieve their potential.  We have clear evidence that those students who attend at the 94.5% national average or above level go on to achieve very well.  Our examination results have improved significantly over the past 3 years in all of the core subjects, and every indicator.  

The context of this school is that we have a group of students every year - less than 10% of our students - who achieve well below their potential.  Every secondary school has students such as this, but our school has a larger number than many.  Schools in the same social context as ours tend to be the ones who struggle in terms of performance tables, and it is for this reason.   These students do not attend because - for example - they are school refusers and/or they have significant social issues and/or their behaviour means that we need to find alternative education for them, which can often also fail.  There can be many other issues.  The simple fact is that the way the government calculates results means that these students have a significant effect on our school figures.  We work extremely hard to get them into school and in fact no student left Werneth without at least some exam results last year: the first time ever.  However, they do impact our results.

For the majority of our students who do achieve, we are continuing to work closely with subject leaders and teachers to provide a better quality curriculum year-on-year.  Our data shows that we are being successful in this way, but we are not complacent.  We know there is further improvement to come.  

What can we do about this?  It is difficult.  We are investing this year like never before on some vocational options such as Construction and Childcare, to try and keep some students who do not enjoy academic subjects in school.  We have employed a small team of additional staff in school to work with these students and ensure they are kept on track and given opportunities to achieve.  We will also be adopting a tougher approach that means they need to be in school and working with us to achieve, to retain their school place.

Strengthening leadership

OFSTED’s comments about leaders not demonstrating sufficient improvement and ambition are tied up with their belief that attendance and exam results should have improved more.  I hope you can see the context of this above: the school is improving all of the time, and we firmly believe this was not recognised.  The school works very closely with Stockport MBC school improvement team, an OFSTED lead inspector who acts as our School Improvement Partner for one full day in school every fortnight and a national attendance consultant.  We also have the ability to draw on subject specialist leaders to support our teachers to improve practice if necessary: we have benefited from this in Mathematics last year.  The school is well regarded by all of these external professionals who support us.

Other key developments

There are a range of other key developments for the school:

  • We are working with GM Bridge to transform our careers provision.  This organisation helps schools to get employers into school and provide a range of opportunities.  We are providing a full time careers officer in school next year, and also opening a new careers facility.

  • Stockport schools have suffered for a long time in terms of fair funding.  The area has been very poorly funded compared to other authorities.  If Werneth was sited within the Manchester area rather than Stockport, we would receive an additional £750,000 each year.  However, our funding has improved this year and I have been able to provide all subject leaders with additional budgets that have tripled their funding.  We have also invested in some key projects such as a new minibus, external canopy, equipment for the building and safer school premises.



We hope that you can see from this that the school is working hard across all areas to continue its improvement journey.


Yours sincerely,


Mr A Conroy


Link to Report January 2020 on the Ofsted Website

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