New head guiding her school on its journey of improvement

Staff and children at Lancastrian Infant School
Staff and children at Lancastrian Infant School

A new headteacher has pledged to continue to guide her school on its “improvement journey”.

Zoe Gordon joined Lancastrian Infant School, in Orchard Gardens, in January as interim head, a position which was made permanent this term.

Picture by Kate Shemilt

Picture by Kate Shemilt

One of the first challenges she faced, weeks into her interim posting, was an Ofsted inspection. Despite recognising the “substantial improvements” already made, inspectors rated the tiny school of 74 children ‘requires improvement’.

Mrs Gordon said: “It’s hard on schools and it’s hard on morale when you’re rated RI because everyone works really, really hard to make it work. Even the temporary staff that we’ve had have been very dedicated to the children and to making a difference in their lives. That’s what’s so important in education generally but it doesn’t always get recognised.”

Armed with the school’s five core values – friendship, resilience, listening, learning and caring – her message to parents has been a simple one: “We’re dedicated to making this school better – to be the best for the children who are here, Because it’s the start to their education, we’re very conscious that we want to make that experience the best it can be in a creative, fun way.”

Things certainly seem to be heading in the right direction.

Picture by Kate Shemilt

Picture by Kate Shemilt

July’s SATs results were “a huge improvement” on the previous year and the school has launched a new website, which now meets all Ofsted requirements.

Mrs Gordon said: “My hopes for the school are, certainly when Ofsted come back, to find us to be a good school. That definitely would be an aim and we’re going to do that through focussing on the quality of teaching and learning.”

She added: “It’s about getting out there into the community as well and getting ourselves known for being a small school, for being a family focussed school, because we want people to choose us.

“We’re low on our numbers which means we’ve got small classes, which is great, but we’re looking to attract more pupils in the future.”

Picture by Kate Shemilt

Picture by Kate Shemilt

Lancastrian will be holding a couple of open events for parents of prospective pupils. The first will be on Thursday (September 28) at 1.30pm. The second will be held on Thursday October 12 at 11am.

Not enough money or new blood for schools

The new school funding system is unlikely to make much difference to small schools like Lancastrian, said headteacher Zoe Gordon.

While acknowledging the government had started to listen to concerns about the ongoing cash shortfall, Mrs Gordon said the new National Funding Formula was not “the answer that all of us have been asking for”.

She added: “Ultimately, there isn’t enough money coming into schools and schools are therefore struggling to make ends meet.”

Lancastrian will see its funding rise by £10k to £521k in 2018/19 but, unlike most schools, it will not receive a further rise in 2019/20.

When it came to recruiting, Mrs Gordon said there had been a drop in the number of applicants for advertised jobs.

She felt young teachers felt “disillusioned”, questioning the point of joining such a tough profession when there may be no money to cover basic pay increases.

Governors needed

Lancastrian Infant School is on the lookout for some new governors to join the board.

There is a vacancy for a parent governor as well as community governors to join chairman David Brixey and his team.

Mrs Gordon said: “It's such a tough thing to do. It's very rewarding but it does take time and it does take committment.”

The governing body is made up of volunteers who are responsible for: making sure the school has a clear strategic plan and a good ethos; holding the headteacher to account for the educational performance of the school and its pupils, and the performance management of staff; and overseeing the financial performance of the school and making sure its money is well spent.

Anyone who would like to be considered for a governors' post, should contact the clerk Carol Sceens via cskeens@lancastrian.org.uk or call the school office on 01243 782818.