AFTER being put into special measures earlier this year following concerns of racism, bullying and poor teaching standards, a Blackburn high school has a new head teacher.

Patrick Murden plans to transform Our Lady and St John Catholic College into an outstanding school within months.


Reporter Jessica Cree spoke to him about how he intends to turn the school around.

The staff at Our Lady and St John, in Shadsworth, were determined not to become an academy when the college was deemed to be ‘inadequate’ and put into special measures, its new headteacher has said.

Instead, they have teamed up with a partnership of schools centred around the ‘outstanding’ St Patrick’s RC High School, in Eccles, where the new head Mr Murden was the deputy head before taking up the top position at the North Road school.

Mr Murden said joining the family of schools would allow Our Lady and St John to learn from best practice and take on innovative and inspirational staff.

The 39-year-old, who has become one of the youngest heads in East Lancashire, took over from former head Keith Ballard who retired at he end of last term.

Mr Murden said: “It is exciting. The changes are tangible and the staff and pupils are all talking about them.

“There is an opportunity to look beyond just being good enough. I am coming from a background where we had outstanding standards and I want to give the children here exactly the same opportunities.”

As well as having inadequate teaching, pupil progress, behaviour and leadership, Ofsted also raised concerns around bullying and ‘cliques’ resulting in racism.

Mr Muden, a father-of-three, said he was aware there had been issues and that he planned to take a hard line against them.

He said: “The school is traditional in its values and we do not have many rules except one – that we respect each other.

“I am going to tackle the issues with a very clear line of action to get us out of special measures.

“With racism, there is a zero tolerance approach that we have enforced. I have worked in schools with a similar demographic with those issues and Our Lady and St John does not feel like one of those schools.

“The Ofsted report followed on from a very sensitive time locally.

“Schools reflect the communities they serve, but this community is built with traditional values and by referencing that, we hope we overcome any historical issues.”

The leader said that since taking over in September, there had not been any more instances of racism.

My Murden, who also has a degree in law, said the plan for the college, which has a sixth form, was to have the school out of special measures by Christmas next year.

He said: “I make no bones about it, the aim is to have an outstanding school and for it to be the Blackburn school of choice.

“It will take us 15 months. The judgement then should be that the school is out of special measures, but we will see the improvement in next summer’s exam results.

“We have got good schools in the area and I understand why parents might overlook us. However, as a parent of a prospective Year Seven, I would look forward five years.

“Year 11 now know they are going to set a record for the best grades and year 10 know they will beat that record. And the year nines know they will then beat that record.

“What makes a difference between a good and an outstanding school is passion. Ofsted has its own criteria, but for me the difference is passion. I am passionate about the children in this school and their outcomes.”

Ofsted has already recognised that the school is making some progress.

Inspector Allan Torr said in a letter detailing his findings of a recent monitoring inspection: “Senior leaders, including governors, are committed to improving the college quickly.

“Although very disappointed by the judgements in the inspection, the leaders are motivated and determined to tackle each of the weaknesses identified in the report.

“During my visit I observed some of break and lunchtime. Students mixed well together, regardless of age, gender or racial heritage, which is an improvement on some of the issues identified in the inspection report.”