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Home   Ashford   News   Article

Dozens excluded as superhead Jon Whitcombe tackles bad behaviour and lateness at The North School in Ashford after inadequate Ofsted report

07 March 2014
by Suz Elvey

Jon Whitcombe, who arrived at the school on Monday last week, has also reduced the number of children arriving late for school by 90% – from 200 last Wednesday to 20 three days ago – by handing out detentions to latecomers.

The drastic action comes after Ofsted found the secondary school in Essella Road was inadequate in all areas.

Superhead Jon Whitcombe is cracking down on bad behaviour at The North School

Superhead Jon Whitcombe is cracking down on bad behaviour at The North School

Mr Whitcombe, who taught at the Ashford school almost 20 years ago, said: "In the past week we've had at least 40 fixed period exclusion for behaviour that is not up to the standards we expect in a properly running school. The school already feels much calmer.

"To me one of the worst things a student can do is stop others from learning.

"There have been some students in this school who think they've got a God-given right to stop others learning.

"In my opinion those people shouldn't be in school. They need to go home and their parents need to take responsibility for them until they can behave in an acceptable way.

"My job is to make sure the students who want to work are the most important ones in the school. The ones who want to mess about can go and we'll focus on the ones who want to work."

The North School in Essella Road

The North School in Essella Road

Two parents last week raised concerns discipline had gone too far, with one claiming a child was excluded for brushing her hair.

In response, Mr Whitcombe said: "In terms of discipline, it is always going to be subjective.

"We only have four rules in this school: do what you're told when you're told; treat others as you would like to be treated yourself; always try your best, and we will support the students in that; and get to school on time. I can assure you children are not excluded from school because they have brushed their hair."

Mr Whitcombe has introduced a system called community support that is used in other schools he manages and involves senior members of staff visiting classrooms during lesson time to ensure pupils are behaving.

The North School in Ashford received an inadequate Ofsted report

The North School in Ashford received an inadequate Ofsted report

Pupils who arrive late at school will receive a break-time detention, which increases to an after school one if they fail to show up.

When pupils return from a period of exclusion they will work in isolation, under staff supervision, in the school’s Pupil Support Provision – another idea brought over from his other schools.

Mr Whitcombe also intends to focus on behaviour management, lesson planning and the marking of books.

He suggested pupils who drop litter will be given a black sack, gloves and a high-visibility jacket and told to tidy the school grounds.

The Kentish Express reported on The North School's inadequate Ofsted report last week

How the Kentish Express reported on The North School's inadequate Ofsted report last week

Mr Whitcombe, who taught RE at the school between 1990 and 1996, continued: "We will take the systems and processes that work in other schools and bring them into this school. The changes are here to stay. The expectations in terms of behaviour are here to stay.

"The parents are generally very supportive and the students want stronger discipline and want their school to be a good school.

"When I taught at The North School it was a good school. It set me up for my teaching career. I feel a real loyalty to the school."

Staff at The North School will work closely with Sittingbourne Community College (SCC), which Mr Whitcombe oversees in his role at executive head of Swale Academies Trust.

Heads of department from the North have already begun visiting SCC to see how the school works and Mr Whitcombe has talked about taking groups of pupils to the non-selective school in Sittingbourne so they can also see what is expected of them.

Mr Whitcombe is being assisted by Richard Slee, who used to work for the Kent Advisory Service and now advises in schools on a freelance basis.


The North School's former head teacher Lesley Ellis

The North School's former head teacher Lesley Ellis

Kent County Council said it was unable to comment on whether Lesley Ellis was still the school's head teacher.

Jon Whitcombe said: "I am based here. I have been here every single day so far. We are going to take our time to make sure we appoint the right person for this school.

"I need to use my experience and expertise to get the school settled. When I think it's ready to be passed onto new leadership that's what I’ll do. There's no timescale for that."

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