NADINE Powrie may not win a popularity contest after presiding over a wave of redundancies and bringing about a ‘culture change’ at her school.
But the new head of Neville Lovett Community School in Fareham has defended tough actions she says are necessary as she seeks to create a top-performing school with an ‘outstanding’ Ofsted rating.
On her first day in the job last September she set about making 19 support staff posts redundant to put a stop to the school’s £200,000 annual overspend.
Since then, 38 teaching and support staff have left the school – some of them, Mrs Powrie admits, because they did not like having their teaching methods challenged.
She said: ‘The school was not in a strong position when I was appointed. It had gone from having a headteacher who had been there 18 years to one who left after 18 months, and the spending was out of control.
‘We had to make cuts for financial reasons. Teaching staff were not targeted, but some found it hard to adjust and some decided to go.
‘I have made 18 excellent teaching appointments since and I am always on the lookout for top recruits from local universities as well as abroad.
‘For me the most important thing is what goes on in the classroom. Teaching is my priority and I want the best people for the job.
‘I have children and I know the value of amazing teaching – I also know the damage bad teaching can do.’
Mrs Powrie already has cause for celebration as her maths department, rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted in October, received a ‘satisfactory with good features’ report in January.
She said: ‘This is the pace at which I’m travelling and my ultimate goal is to make this an outstanding school.
‘I know it is possible. There is a real change of philosophy in the school, our teachers are now thinking more creatively. Every single member of staff contributes to this school’s success and we are all leaders.’
Mrs Powrie believes early years and primary education is crucial for success later in life and is working closely with her on-site children’s centre and feeder primary schools to share expertise.
Her teachers in English, maths, science and foreign languages will take two lessons a week at Neville Lovett’s feeder primary schools next year. Mrs Powrie also plans to open her school this summer for 50 youngsters in years eight and nine for one-to-one sessions in English and maths.
She said: ‘Last year just 45 per cent of our students achieved five good GCSEs including English and maths, which is not good enough.
‘This year we hope to achieve 60 per cent and we will continue to increase our numbers. If we get our children’s education right from the very start, there is no reason why we can’t have 100 per cent achieving top exam results.’
She added: ‘I want to change people’s lives for the better. Yes I may have made some enemies by making redundancies and doing things a bit differently, but it’s what is best for the pupils.
‘I’m confident we will be successful because I am surrounded by talented people.’
by ALINE NASSIF