Lack of leadership, untimely deaths, offical buck-passing, racism and drugs all seen as contributory factors to school's demise

The long-awaited report on the closure of Hogarth School has blamed a combination of bad luck, high staff turnover untimely deaths and inadequate leadership for the demise of the school. Its main conclusion was "there was not one individual or one event which created the situation at Hogarth School. It was in fact the combination of many different factors both short and long-term"

The report pointedly exonerates Sue White, the former chair of the governors, singling her out for praise. "During the course of the Panelís work it became evident that the Chair of the Board of Governors at Hogarth School had been operating in a very difficult environment. Her conduct, commitment and unwavering resolve were exemplary, acting above and beyond the call of duty." The Panel requested that the Chief Executive write to her thanking her for her efforts.

Staff personnel changes particularly at the level of Head were seen to have a significantly negative effect on the school. The Headteacher at the time the crisis started developing was reported to be under pressure for both personal and professional reasons and took a secondment as an LEA literacy adviser. Her deputy took over and was making good progress according to the report when she moved to a different part of the UK for personal reasons. The report says of this development, "It is the Panelís opinion that this marked the first critical issue for the school. The school no longer had a capable and dynamic leader."

The problem was compounded by the absence of a senior teacher on long-term sick leave and the involvement of the newly recruited deputy head in a car accident. At this point (Spring 2002) the previous head teacher returned to the school and the school was clearly in serious decline with 50% of the permanent staff absent and increasing difficulties with parents and pupils. The report states that, "the Headteacher, whilst feeling able to return to Headteacher duties may not have been able to deal with the type of issues which Hogarth posed."

At this point there followed a tragic series of events that critically damaged morale in the school. The senior teacher who had been on sick leave died and the Headteacher went on leave through ill health, obtaining a new post elsewhere in summer 2000. A newly qualified teacher was killed in a car accident in the autumn term 2000 and a pupil at the school, who had been ill, also died.

After the departure of the Headteacher the school was run by the Acting Deputy Head. There were accusations of racism against him and his relationship with some parents was poor. He left the school at the end of the summer term, but a poor relationship with some parents remained.

In November 2000, Hounslow Council Members were informed of the schoolís difficulties but the Executive decided to keep the school open. The Scrutiny Panel felt this was another critical juncture, particularly as a Headteacher advising the school had felt that, "the retrieval of regular school life, with effective teaching and learning was not possible". This view was further endorsed by at least one member of the Advisory team involved with the school.

In February 2001 the school received an unfavourable OFSTED report which resulted in both candidates for the vacant Headteacher's post withdrawing and the school being put in special measures. The Committee of the Council considered an option to transfer the school building to the adjacent St. Mary's which would have alleviate the shortage of places for local Catholic children but a consultation on the matter met with objections from most quarters. In July the decision was taken to close the school.

The report suggests that problems on the Hogarth Estate were spilling over into the school and the local drugs problem could have been a contributory facto "There were clearly problems in the local community on the Hogarth Estate, for which the school acted as a point where different elements of the estate were brought into contact and provided a stage for the conflicts to be played out, despite the fact that many of these conflicts were not connected with the school. There were also indications that drugs were a problem in the local area and that this may have added to the community tension. "

The local LEA is also criticised for the lack of support given to the School's governors. The School had a "buy-back" arrangement with the LEA for financial advice which the latter felt absolved it of certain responsibilities towards the school. The report said, "The LEA has a moral, if not legal duty to show a duty of care towards governors of the Boroughís schools regardless of buy back arrangements.... It appeared that the LEA wanted governors to be responsible for the school but was only willing to let them be in control when it wanted them to be." The result of this stance was that the unpaid governors were spending a significant amount of time dealing with issues like maintenance at the school.

After the closure of the school the William Hogarth School was opened on the same site and has since flourished under Headteacher Cathy Driscoll.

23rd November 2001

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