WHEN Wensley Fold Primary School was branded a failure by Ofsted, staff and governors were devastated. Now, with improving standards and results, it is being held up as an example of how a school can turn itself around. As education chiefs celebrate a glowing Ofsted report, education reporter JEREMY RICHARDS looks at how Wensley Fold earned top marks for effort and attainment and what lessons other schools can learn.

WRITE out a hundred times: Make each day count.

That could well have been the homework staff at Wensley Fold Primary School set themselves after a disastrous Ofsted inspection left it bottom of the class.

Instead the school took it on board as their motto.

Within two years, special measures imposed by Ofsted were lifted. Now the school is eagerly awaiting the results of its latest inspection, which is expected to heap praise on teachers and pupils.

While the school cannot talk about the latest inspection, carried out last week, until it is published in March, it's fair to say they are looking forward to it rather than dreading the day.

"We must be the most inspected school in the country," said head Gaynor Stubbs, only half-jokingly. "It's been phenomenal. The school was one of the first to be inspected and this latest visit was the seventh in six years."

The school is one example of Blackburn with Darwen education authority's "unparalleled" reputation for helping to turn struggling schools around that earned it high praise in the Ofsted report published today, wednesday.

Wensley Fold's troubles began in 1995 when inspectors found inconsistencies and shortcomings. The quality of education was, in general, judged to be sound but there were serious teaching weaknesses in a third of lessons.

Two years later another inspection found standards were still below expectations and there were criticisms of lesson planning and the schools' management. Wensley Fold was told "must do better".

And that's exactly what it did, first under associate head Helen Smith and then Mrs Stubbs, who took over three years ago.

A year after her appointment special measures were lifted after inspectors found standards had risen significantly, the management and leadership was under a tighter rein and the quality of teaching had improved. The improvements have continued at pace.

While Mrs Stubbs has to keep tight-lipped about the latest inspection until it is published she is confident Wensley Fold will come out top of the class. "We're hoping it's going to be very positive," she said. "The feedback from the inspectors was very good."

In 1997 only 65 per cent of 11-year-olds at the school reached the expected level in English and 68 per cent in maths and science. In December when the latest figures were published the percentages were 91 in English, 71 in maths and 86 in science.


Lesson preparation

"WE initially tackled teaching and learning," said Mrs Stubbs. "That was the most significant change.

"The main priority was to look at planning of the lessons and very specifically at learning objectives and targets for every lesson and how they were delivered.

"The aim was to have 'deluxe' lesson planning. Each teacher at the start of a lesson writes down on the blackboard what they want the children to achieve by the end of the lesson. Each child knows what's expected of them."

Staff support

"THE school got extra funding to pay for non-teaching support assistants, who are fully trained and who help the teacher in class. They are brought in for specific tasks such as helping with maths, in the ICT suite and the library and for children with special educational needs. The proportion of support staff is high for a school like this."


WENSLEY Fold must be popular - the children can't wait to get there. "We really developed our out-of-school learning," said Mrs Stubbs. "We have a breakfast club every morning from 8.15, lunch clubs and after-school clubs three nights a week covering information technology, sports, French and first aid. More than 90 per cent of the junior children are involved in at least one of them."

The school also forged stronger links with the local community by holding clubs for parents who want to carry on learning.

School council

LAST autumn the school introduced a council for pupils to give them a greater say in how Wensley Fold is run

Each class from year two upwards voted for two representatives, who had to come up with a manifesto and give an "election speech".

Mrs Stubbs said. "I sit in on the meeting but I don't have any input. It's all down to them. Issues such as behaviour at lunchtimes, extra games for play times, things like that have been brought up."


"THE governors were devastated when the school went into special measures because they thought they knew the school," explained Mrs Stubbs. "Since then they have gone through an enormous amount of training, something they didn't always have access to before. They went into the latest Ofsted inspection really knowing the school and how it operates."

Pupils' view

HANNAH Harpwood and Philip Aspin, both ten, are the year six school council representatives.

Hannah: "I've got the internet at home but I didn't know how to use it but I can now because of the after-school internet club. I also go to the Crest science club at St Wilfrid's every Wednesday.

Philip: "I like the after-school clubs, especially the internet one. It was also good because they put two basketball nets up in the playground so we had something to do at lunch."

Wensley Fold factfile:

Voluntary controlled church school linked to St Mark's, Witton.

240 infant and junior children aged four to 11.

12 teachers and 13 non-teaching support staff.

Built on site of former manor house. Stable block still exists.

Picture: Wensley Fold head teacher Gaynor Stubbs talks to pupils as they get to grips with computers