Sidmouth College was rated ‘good’ but has ‘poor result’, head vows to reverse decline

Sidmouth College Principal Sarah Parsons. Ref shs 39 18TI 1973. Picture: Terry Ife

Sidmouth College Principal Sarah Parsons. Ref shs 39 18TI 1973. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Although Sidmouth College was rated as ‘good’ at Ofsted its results are ‘poor’.

Those are the words of its new headteacher Sarah Parsons, who gave a presentation at a Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce meeting.

She said: “The college is a ‘good’ school according to Ofsted.

“The children are fantastic and the staff are amazing but if you look at the results, it is poor and, in terms of other schools in Devon, the college isn’t doing very well. Over the last three years the GCSE results have been declining and that is not a good place to be.”

Mrs Parsons, who became the headteacher last September, said a lot of work had been done over the last few months to improve the college and its results. She added: “For me it is about making sure that they have the best possible life chances.”

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Mrs Parsons said they’d been doing work to raise expectations, aspirations and achievements.

She added: “I’m really clear. If I say to the staff that I want really high expectations of behaviour then I say this to the kids, in front of the staff, so everybody knows what the expectations are. We have been very clear about what is acceptable behaviour and what we want from the children.

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“I’ve had conversations with high-attaining children who are targets 8 and 9 (the top grades) and they say they’d be happy with a 7, despite what they’re capable of. We’re doing a lot of work to raise those expectations.”

She added they’d also been working to address leadership issues.

Mrs Parsons said they’d done a lot of work on their ‘improvement plan’ making it ‘clear’ and ‘focused’ - taking it down from 36 pages to one.

The head also dedicates at least two hours a day to being ‘visible’, in lessons and walking around to support staff.

“It was a big shock and a change to see leadership out and about.

“The teachers thought I was keeping them on their toes but by week three they said they realised it was supportive.”

The college now has clear ‘none negotiables’ - behaviour expectations - and is working to develop staff. Mrs Parsons said: “In the summer we should have some good results. The first term was fantastic, staff worked really hard, were really positive and did everything I asked. I’ve had staff say they’re driving to work and for the first time in a long time are happy and want to go to work and that they can teach how they want to teach because the kids are behaving. We have sorted behaviour out, given them a clear focus, everybody knows what the priority is and that has made a massive difference. We are being relentless with our high expectations, getting the children to aim for the highest they can.

“The future is bright for Sidmouth College.”

She added they’d also, hopefully, be full with 150 students in September, for the first time since 2015 and were looking forward to plans for an extension, if district planners gave the go-ahead.

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