The BBC reports that inspectors were pelted with food, sixth formers intimidated by younger pupils and almost a third of children regularly absent. This was just some of the behaviour uncovered by Ofsted inspectors who rated Willenhall E-ACT Academy “inadequate” in every category. Here, one former teacher describes what it was like to work at the West Midlands school.
In the days leading up to one of the worst examples of behaviour I saw at Willenhall, tensions had been brewing for a few days because the weather hadn’t been great.
There was a near full-scale riot one day when pupils tried to force their way in. This meant staff spending their lunch break attempting to prevent doors being shoved open – and being physically pushed. Windows were smashed and the fire alarm pulled. A colleague was injured on her shoulder in this event.
No support was forthcoming from senior staff despite emailing them and ATL [The Education Union] throughout the fracas. A number of students were given fixed term exclusions but it had little impact.
Most lessons were also disrupted during my time at the school. A considerable portion of pupils would routinely truant and walk around the school building avoiding their lessons. These pupils would bang on windows, shout, get into fights and disrupt lessons continually. When challenged, they would be threatening and verbally abusive.
But those more able classes were broadly well behaved, and I genuinely loved every minute of teaching the majority of my classes who were made up of those students who had a passion for learning.
But mainly, the more able pupils were scared, and bored, as they saw their lesson time disappear as teachers wasted their time on fire-fighting poor behaviour rather than helping them improve and reach their goals. It sapped the magical combination of confidence and curiosity which makes young people thrive. They deserve so much better.
A sobering moment in my teaching career was discussing this in the staff room only to have six of the seven teachers present explain that they too were on some form of medication for stress, anxiety, depression or related mental illness.
What do you think? Can schools like Willenhall be successfully turned around? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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