New JFS leaders: We'll turn it around

Sir Michael Wilshaw and Dame Joan McVittie accept JFS is 'in difficulties, particularly around behaviour'. But measures to improve discipline and safeguarding have been put in place


The new JFS interim principal has pledged that it is “going to be a fantastic school – it was once and it will be again”.

Speaking to the JC today, Sir Michael Wilshaw acknowledged that disciplinary issues needed to be addressed.

But the ex-Ofsted chief and Dame Joan McVittie - a former London school head and safeguarding expert brought in as part of his support team – vowed to turn the school around.

Sir Michael, 74, said that both he and Dame Joan had been “approached to try and steady the ship, which is what we’re doing at the moment”.

The approach had been made by the chair of governors, Andrew Moss, after a recent Ofsted inspection, the results of which have yet to be published. 

Until its publication, Sir Michael could not comment on its findings. But he accepted that the school was “presently in difficulties, particularly around behaviour”.

Measures already implemented since his appointment last week including bringing in new recruits “that both Joan and I know are good disciplinarians, good at behaviour”. Pupils and staff were being reminded of the rules.

Dame Joan added that safeguarding was a “key issue that certainly needed a focus on improvement”.

A new central system had been established for concerns about safeguarding issues to be reported, she said. In addition, a children's mental health expert had put in place "some very significant training" for staff so they could identify early signs that a pupil might be struggling. 

Sir Michael maintained that the school was now “very much on the up and can be turned around quickly.

“I’m very confident, [and] so is Joan, that the culture is already improving and will continue to improve with the systems we’ve introduced.”

Sir Michael added that he was unsurprised by a recent student petition urging JFS to prioritise mental health following the death of a pupil earlier this year and pledged to address the issues raised in the campaign. 

“The students are as concerned as we are that things improve. So I’m not surprised that they set off this petition because they’re worried that the standards aren’t high enough and that behaviour is not good enough,” he said.

Asked to comment on the legacy of former JFS head Rachel Fink, who quit the school at the end of May after three years at the helm, both Sir Michael and Dame Joan declined to respond.




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