Spotlight on Red Hill School....

Last year, we reported on all the great reasons to live in Chislehurst. One of the big reasons is schools. Families with young children are moving to the town for our wonderful green spaces, the proximity to London and our local schools.

Today we are focusing on one particular primary schoolRed Hill School. We have four state primary schools within the BR7 postcode and at the moment, many residents have to travel further afield to find a school place for their children due to the high demand for places. 


Almost a year ago, Red Hill School received an Ofsted inspection and they received a “requires improvement” status, having previously been cited as a “good” school.


Visit Chislehurst caught up with Miss Butcher, the Head Teacher to find out more.


Miss Butcher was quick to explain where she felt performance had dipped since their last Ofsted in 2011. The report from Ofsted outlined that there were weaknesses in teaching and reading in Key Stage 2, quality of teaching and leadership and management.


The school had experienced a long term absence from a teacher during this period and there had been a high staff turnover. She was keen to explain that this had improved and a new focus on handwriting had been put in place with a new “Talk for Writing” project amongst other schemes. In fact, there is a twelve page Post Ofsted Action Plan in place to improve the school.


The Ofsted report also outlined the Early Years Provision (4-7 years) as “Good” with particular successes in phonics with many high ability readers. It also showed strong performance in maths.


Whilst Ms Butcher is very careful not to express her personal views on the Ofsted Inspection, there is no doubt that the school has been put under additional pressure by the changes in the inspection framework. It is much more difficult to achieve a “Good” or “Outstanding” status and the boxes that need ticking are rather arbitrary. She talked me through an example of how a year Year 6 student is tested on “adverbial phrases”. You say “what?” I hear you ask? Forgive me if I am insulting you but I did A’level English (a few years ago now…) but I don’t remember ever being told what an “adverbial phrase” is! Well, it’s this; starting a sentence with an adverb. Some people call it a “fronted adverbial”.  “Slowly, we walked towards the school” or “Joyously, we skipped to school”. Hmmm – if our kids do this? Box ticked. As long as our kids are “coached” in this way, they will pass the test. Everyone will have their own opinion on how kids are coached to pass a test but is this really how to drive excellence, creativity and inspire our children?


Don’t get me wrong, I am sure there is good reason for the school receiving the inspection result it did. I simply don’t have the technical expertise or the time in this article to unpick every point. But my overriding impression when meeting Ms Butcher is how much she cares about the pupils, her staff and the school. 


The interview starts very technically, talking through the very detailed boxes the school needs to tick, ensuring kids reach their “development learning goals”, make progress, reach their “expected levels”, pass this and that test and more. I am bombarded by education jargon which to be honest is mind-blowing.  I don’t envy our teachers. This has been a difficult interview to write up (it has taken me ages!) and at one point I almost abandoned it altogether. Not knowing how to pull together all the technical info but also give a sense of what this school is about. In the end, I decided not to overthink it. 


For me, Ms Butcher comes alive when we start talking about all the initiatives the school does with an emphasis on Storytelling, Creativity Days, Focus Weeks (on the likes of Science and Maths), Competitions, working with the Chislehurst Society on local projects and so much more. There is obviously a passion for teaching that is trying to co-exist with this constant need to achieve target after target. After speaking to friends who are teachers, this is the wish; to inspire our pupils to learn but within a framework that is stifling. 


Yes, there is no doubt that schools and teachers need to be assessed, monitored and be held to account but it feels that our teachers are expected to be so much more than teachers these days. They must be leaders, managers, data experts, produce reports, constantly re-train on the latest scheme of testing from DfE (department for education) and they must play a leadership role in strategically developing their school in the new academy framework.


Following recent government announcements that all schools should become an academy by 2020 those schools who are not Academies (such as Red Hill) are now potentially seeking a place for themselves in one of the many multi-academy trusts in the borough. These trusts are popping up across the borough as schools make a mad scramble for a home within an academy they can trust to have their interests at heart. Whatever your politics, academies are a political hot potato at the moment and whilst the journalists and leaders comment on the subject, Headteachers, teachers and school governors are trying not only to find their place but also get on with the day job of running their school.


Watch this space in Chislehurst. With ever more demand for primary school places in the town and a lack of locations to build new schools, it is interesting times for our children’s education.


If you have time to weave your way through Bromley Council’s website, take a read of the “Bromley Local Plan” which outlines some of those plans. They aim to make Edgebury a two form entry school by building on the current site and there is a proposal to build a Primary School on a site at Bushell Way. It is definitely worth a read here. 


Written by Tamsyn Clark


All views expressed are my own.