Before Sharon Gray became headteacher in 2009, inspectors had placed the underachieving school in special measures. Ofsted issued a “notice to improve” when Sharon took the helm, after she pleaded with authorities to give the failing school a chance.
She says: “I promised everyone I could get the school to outstanding. “Many didn’t believe it was possible, but I was determined. I wanted to do it for the children because I thought it’s what they deserved. “I believed it wasn’t them failing, it was the system failing them which didn’t seem fair.”
It was Sharon’s awe-inspiring flair for inventing projects to engage her pupils that helped to change the school around. This year she staged an “alien landing” that involved the whole school in a week-long investigation.
Children and parents arrived one Monday morning in March to find a fire engine and police guarding a large white tent in the school field, with strange sounds and billowing smoke.
The “Look Deeper” project was developed by Sharon with the help of her deputy, and two other staff members.It worked on communication and language skills and it led to excited discussions among pupils about scientific experiments.
Sharon has also encouraged the community to participate in school life, involving parents in developing a school farm, and by issuing shops with “good behaviour cards” which they could hand to well-behaved pupils.
Sharon invented the scheme, the Integrity Awards, to encourage children to behave when there were no teachers looking.
Now, while the majority of children enter the school significantly below national achievement levels, a majority leave at or above the national average, including some who take GCSE maths exams at the age of just 11.
One parent, Gemma Nason, says: “If it hadn’t been for Sharon, my son, who suffers learning difficulties, wouldn’t be in a mainstream school.
This year the school achieved an outstanding Ofsted report.