A FOCUS on literacy has seen a school for disadvantaged youngsters awarded the second best Ofsted grade.
Despite many schools dropping grades after government inspections were made tougher in January, The Harbour School in Portsmouth is bucking the trend.
It has leapt from ‘satisfactory’ to ‘good’ with outstanding features.
Inspectors praised teaching, leadership, pupil behaviour and achievement across all its sites, which cater for children expelled from mainstream schools, youngsters with special needs and those with complex behavioural and medical problems.
They were particularly impressed with the successful ‘basics’ literacy programme – a daily 45-minute reading and writing session.
Brandon Stenlake, 10, who has dysgraphia which affects his ability to write, has seen radical improvement in both his spelling and reading.
Brandon said: ‘Reading is so much easier now and because I’m prepared for new words and spellings I don’t lose patience.
‘In the past when I couldn’t understand words I’d throw the book or kick a door out of frustration.’
Kevin Wooldridge, 11, who has shot up to a reading age of 13 years in just 12 months, said: ‘Learning new words is so helpful, and helps me read more fluently at school and at home.
‘Reading is very important – I need it to get a good job, I don’t want to be stacking shelves when I’m older.’
June Merrigan, the school’s literacy leader, said the aim is that every student leaves with an English accreditation.
She added: ‘We want them all to read for pleasure, but the bottom line is they need it as a functional skill – I would hate to think anyone could die in a fire because they couldn’t read the signs.’
She believes mainstream schools are too quick to label children as badly behaved, when in fact they are simply struggling with the work.
‘We’ve seen children who have been excluded for bad behaviour coming in reading six years behind their age – it’s very easy to point the finger at bad behaviour,’ she said. ‘But every teacher here is a teacher of reading and I feel enormously proud of that.’
Sally Garrett, headteacher, who signed up to the News literacy campaign Read All About It, is thrilled with the Ofsted report.
She said: ‘Literacy is one of the big building blocks of our curriculum – good literacy improves confidence and helps youngsters access a lot of areas and unlock their talent.’
For more on our campaign visit portsmouth.co.uk/news/campaigns/ read-all-about-it