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[February 08, 2014]
'Our team will make Al-Madinah a school that Derby can be proud of' [Derby Evening Telegraph (England)]
(Derby Evening Telegraph (England) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) The founding trustees are gone and the secondary section of the school is to close but Al-Madinah School is to get another chance - to carry on as a primary school.
THE new trustees at Derby's first faith free school have their work cut out to turn around its fortunes.
Having experienced at first hand some of the "chaos" that education inspectors referred to in their report last October, education expert Barry Day is still convinced that the school can become "outstanding" within a short time.
Mr Day, who is chief executive of the Greenwood Dale Foundation Trust, has been appointed chairman of the Al-Madinah Education Trust.
He was asked by the Schools Minister Lord Nash to step in after the school's Ofsted inspection resulted in it being placed in special measures.
Taking the decision not to recommend his own foundation should take Al-Madinah into the trust's 23 other academies, Mr Day has spent around five to six weeks working to sort out the situation at the Derby school.
His role as Al-Madinah trust chair is being undertaken in a personal capacity. Mr Day does not hold back from saying that a due diligence exercise his own Greenwood Dale staff have been carrying out "has raised more questions than it answered". Problems over trying to track the finances of the school were a major factor in the Greenwood Dale trust not taking on Al-Madinah.
Trying to work out the financial and bureaucratic situation at the school was also made difficult while the founding trustees remained.
He said: "Staff have been blamed for the troubles at the school but they deserved better than the trustees they had, whose role was critical in how the school has ended up." It is only in the past week that Mr Day and the new trustees have been able to set about deciding what changes are needed to secure the future of the school, which will now cater for primary children from September. Mr Day expects that most of the secondary pupils will leave as soon as possible to secure places in alternative schools. There are at least 90 secondary pupils from Derby and possibly another 30 from Burton who will need to find other schools.
But the exact numbers are a bit of a mystery. The lack of a system for recording school attendance left Mr Day, and the staff he took across to the school in December, having to do an impromptu head count to find out.
It is a similar picture with staff, with no pay scales in existence or records of absenteeism being kept.
Mr Day, who has written an action plan for the school, said: "Now that the founding trustees have left we can have a closer look at the books.
"As far as we can tell, it is almost impossible to know how many children attend the schools because there is no system for recording attendance.
For example, we have had to count heads to see how many children are in the secondary school.
"It's a similar situation for staff. So many have come and gone, it's difficult to work out who works here and who is being paid what and what contracts exist." But Mr Day remains resolute that the school will succeed as the quality of education improves.
He sees a point in the future where the current primary children move through and are ready to become pupils in a re-opened secondary section of Al-Madinah School. Mr Day said: "Our vision remains to establish the school as an outstanding allthrough school for all members of the local community in and around Derby.
"We will work collaboratively with pupils, parents and partners to make this happen.
We know there remains a considerable task ahead to secure the foundations for a high quality education for all pupils." Mr Day will be assisted on the school's board by: Arshed J Ahmed, secretary of the school's Parents Friends Association, who has one child there; Imam Mohammad Abdullah Shahjan, who was previously part of the Al-Madinah Education Trust; and David Anstead, a former head teacher and education inspector. Plans are already in hand to move the primary children over to Midland House in Nelson Street by Easter.
They are currently in Norman House in Friar Gate but have been unable to go out to play at break and lunch times for the past couple of months because of health and safety concerns on the site.
But it is possible that a new site could be found for the Al- Madinah primary school that would be more accessible and also more suitable.
Mr Day said: "We need to create a new playground for the primary pupils at Midland House and also to make sure that we have the right size toilets for them when they come here.
"We aim to resolve the situation as soon as possible and make this the best school it can be." firstname.lastname@example.org 'EVERYTHING WAS ON A KNIFE EDGE' SOME of the welldocumented bad practices and chaos that were picked up by a team from Ofsted - the Office for Standards in Education - were also experienced by a supply teacher. But when he went to Al- Madinah School in December for just a single day, he said he also found some positive points.
Here is what the supply teacher, who did not wish to be identified, had to say about his experiences at the Midland House site of Al-Madinah School: "On the plus side, the place was tidy, well maintained and nicely decorated. It had plenty of text books, computers and modern whiteboards to aid teaching in each room.
"I found that about a third of the pupils I came into contact with wanted to work, while the others preferred not to.
"They appeared to be very indifferent to being in school and inclined to argue.
"A great many supply teachers seem to have been used by the school. I was told it was because there was a great deal of staff absence and many had left permanently. So permanent members of staff were a rare sight.
"There was one particularly hard-working teacher who patrolled the corridors at break times, did a variety of other tasks and then, not surprisingly, fell asleep at his computer later after school hours.
"The corridors did need patrolling at times because pupils seemed to be running around a great deal.
"Taking pupils for PE was not as simple as in many schools as pupils at Al-Madinah have to be transported to Mackworth to use the Derby College sports site.
"And anyone visiting or teaching at the school will struggle to park because there is limited space.
"I also have long-term concerns about pupils, particularly the younger ones, being in a building like Midland House, which is full of high ceilings, long corridors and staircases.
"Overall, my time at the school proved to be an interesting experience, although there was a feeling that everything was on a knife edge. But, despite all of that, I would be prepared to go back to teach there if the need arose." "It is a considerable task to secure the foundations for a high quality education." BARRY DAY (c) 2014 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.
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