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Last Updated: Monday, 29 October 2007, 18:07 GMT
Ridings School to be shut down
The Ridings
The Ridings became a symbol of problems in schools
The Ridings School in Halifax - once labelled the worst school in the country - is to be closed down after more than a decade of rescue attempts.

Calderdale council has taken the decision to shut the school which was put into special measures earlier this year following an inspection.

A statement said that "parents have been voting with their feet by sending their children to other schools".

The National Union of Teachers attacked the decision as "short sighted".

The school became a symbol of "classroom chaos" at the tail-end of the Conservative administration - and then became a test case for the Labour government's efforts to turn around failing schools.

The local authority, announcing the closure on Monday, blamed the "poor standard of achievement at the school" and said that the cost of funding each place at the Ridings was much higher than the local average.

Symbolic school

"The Ridings is currently only half full and parents have been voting with their feet by sending their children to other schools across Calderdale," said Craig Whittaker, the council's cabinet member for children and young people's services.

Despite the investment of 6.5m in new buildings, experiments with "superheads", Ofsted "hit squads" and a stream of ministerial visits, the school will be shut down - with no new intake for the next school year.

The Ridings School came to national prominence in 1996 - when discipline problems at the school became a focus of concerns about poor behaviour and low standards.

Teachers at the school had threatened to walk out over the poor behaviour of 61 pupils, there was an emergency Ofsted inspection and a temporary closure after fears that the school appeared to be running out of control.

The Ridings was labelled "the worst school in Britain" - but there were determined efforts to improve the school's image and results.

Pupils were expelled and the school was given a new leadership.

There was an extensive building programme, with a new sports hall, science block, expressive arts block, library, English classrooms and rooms for graphics and electronics.

Improvements

There were signs of an improvement, with the 2003 GCSE results showing that the proportion of students gaining at least five good GCSEs or the equivalent had risen from 7% to 25%.

But despite the attempts to turn the school around, the last published results, from summer 2006, showed that only 4% of pupils achieved the benchmark of five good GCSEs including English and maths.

The local authority's figures for 2007 show that the number will have risen to 13%.

Inspectors this year also found many faults - rating the school "inadequate" in 18 out of 26 categories - and warned about poor attendance and disruptive behaviour.

Local NUT representative, Sue McMahon, says the union has "vehemently opposed the proposal to close".

"Closure will remove the only community school in north Halifax, leaving two faith schools and a grammar school. Closure of The Ridings is both thoughtless and short sighted. Children will be condemned to leave their community in search of a school place," she said.

The Schools Minister Andrew Adonis said that the story of the Ridings was not representative of the wider school system.

"The circumstances at the Ridings do not reflect the progress that has been made over the last ten years to raise national school standards," he said.

"The number of schools in special measures was 515 in 1998, but was only 243 in January 2007. In 1997, there were 616 schools where less than 25 per cent of students got five good GCSE passes. Today the number is down to 26 thanks to a no nonsense approach to tackling school failure."

SEE ALSO
'Consider closing Ridings School'
05 Mar 07 |  Bradford
Ridings School 'inadequate' again
20 Nov 05 |  Education
'Worst school's' GCSE joy
21 Aug 03 |  West Yorkshire

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