What does it take to make a struggling inner city school outstanding?

Wright Robinson College was featured in the Manchester Evening News on 3rd May 2016

Wright Robinson College was just one inspection away from being taken over… but is now one of the best schools in Manchester.

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What does it take to make a struggling inner city school outstanding?

Wright Robinson College was one strike away from being forced to become an academy, but is now outstanding in all areas.

So just how has headteacher Neville Beischer turned this school around?

When you walk along the corridors of Wright Robinson College during lesson time, you could probably hear a pin drop.

And when the bell goes, only a gentle hum fills the building as children head to their next lesson.

It’s an enormous school, probably the biggest in Manchester, but somehow headteacher Neville Beischer has managed to create ‘an oasis of calm’, according to one impressed Ofsted inspector.

As pupils will proudly tell you, Wright Robby is now ‘outstanding’ in all areas.

pic2It’s been a long road for staff here, not least for head of 25 years Mr Beischer.

The school had been just one strike away from being forced to become an academy after being rated as ‘requires improvement’ on its previous two inspections.

The teaching standards were considered good but the school’s attendance and exam results had been poor for a number of years.

Mr Beischer had been told he must improve pupil outcomes if the school was to avoid being taken over by an academy trust or chain.

Mr Beischer said he had no choice.

A ‘sea change’ in culture was needed if the school was to improve.

“The behaviour was not good and the attendance was terrible,” Mr Beischer explains.

“The examination results were very poor. It wasn’t that nobody cared, there was just no accountability.

“There were no league tables but there was a lot of tokenism in education in those days.

“A lot of teachers would say I am just keeping them off the streets.

“Even though the attendance was about 80pc in 1995 Ofsted would say, well you’ve done your best in a city like this.”

Wright Robinson serves one of the poorest areas of Manchester with more than 60pc of students eligible for free school meals.

pic3Yet Mr Beischer says he has never bought into the idea that deprivation and poverty equate to poor results or underachievement.

“There’s always been poverty,” he adds. “That’s never changed.”

So what has changed at Wright Robinson?

“The expectations have changed and with those expectations the behaviour of the children is now outstanding.

“Our attendance is now 96.8pc, the highest in the country. Children come to be taught well and feel valued.

“In this school all of our children are taught well. All 60 lessons observed by Ofsted were outstanding and we now have outstanding results to match.

“Twenty years ago it didn’t matter what you did but now the teaching is far superior.

“The learning ethos of the school is completely different.”

Teamwork is also at the heart of everything at Wright Robinson and the veteran headteacher is also a ‘strong disciplinarian’.

“Yes I am strict,” he says.

“As a head you have to choose your battles and you have to win the battle on attendance and uniform.”

Ofsted inspectors praised the school for the strong sense of identity among students.

The report states: “They wear their ‘Team Wright Robinson’ badges with pride and are appreciative of the high-quality support and teaching they receive.”

pic4Year 11 pupil Sarah Olaluyi, 15, said: “Everyone here makes sure you’re on track.

“They make sure you achieve what you want to achieve.

“It’s a really friendly environment. You never feel like you’re alone.

“Everyone works together.”

Anthony Cash, 13, added: “When I first started I was a bit scared.

“I didn’t know my way around but everyone was really helpful.”

Parents say Wright Robinson has made positive difference to Gorton and neighbouring areas.

Lesley Day, whose daughter Jenny is in year 10, said: “Some people have a poor opinion of Gorton. They think it’s a bit rough.

“But it’s a good community and the school’s part of that.

“The pupils all look out for each other. It’s a massive school but it still has a personal touch. They’ve worked really to get the school where it is today.”

pic5Mum Audrey Meade, whose daughter Eleanor is in Year 7, added: “When we looked round we thought there was a real buzz.

“There’s a lot of pride here, you can tell. I’d be very cross if it was forced to become an academy.”

Driving up standards at an urban school is not easy and Neville Beischer admits it has taken him 25 years of hard work to get them to this stage.

Like many teachers, he was angry when Ofsted’s chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, warned the Northern Powerhouse could be choked by Manchester’s ‘inadequate’ schools.

But Mr Beischer says their latest Ofsted report proves what can be achieved in Manchester’s inner city schools.

He said: “Staff, parents and students are a team and we’ve got here thanks to everyone’s hard work.

“When I opened the report it was honestly the proudest day of my professional career.”

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Link to the Manchester Evening News Article

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