A HEAD teacher at one of the most improved schools in the country has praised her staff’s hard work.
The Government has named Delves Lane Community School, near Consett, in a list of the 100 most improved schools in the country after pupil attainment levels almost doubled in just three years.
The 270-pupil school, which serves some of the most disadvantaged wards in County Durham, saw the percentage of pupils achieving Level Four maths and English rocket from just 48 per cent to 80 per cent between 2009 and 2012.
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The achievement was singled out for praise by the Department for Education when primary school results were published last month.
Formed in September 2008 by the merger of the existing junior and infants schools, the school has since seen an unprecedented increase in applications.
Head teacher Karen Holden said: “Last year we had to turn children away, which is unheard of.
“It’s something I don't like doing, so we have worked to expand our intake from 40 new pupils a year a few years ago to 52 now."
Pupils arriving at the school have basic skills such as speech and social skills lower than the national average and the school has higher than average numbers in receipt of free school meals and pupil premium.
However, the school has appointed parent support staff to work with families to ensure children achieve their best.
Mrs Holden said: “It’s about making sure that those children make as good progress as everyone else.
“Every child deserves a chance and every child deserves the best.
“We believe that every child can achieve – we will never write a child off, we will never write a family off, we believe in communication with families and that helps in terms of expectation.
“We have high expectations of staff who in turn have very high expectations of children”.
Despite the upheaval of forming a new school, staff used the change as a fresh start to redecorate and re-equip the buildings, which date back to the 1930s.
There has also been a fresh emphasis on personal development for the 40-strong staff and on consistency across the school.
Breakfast clubs, after-school clubs and a family learning programme have been set up, along with groups as varied as a choir and a kickboxing club and the introduction of attendance and achievement awards.
In the next year, the school hopes to raise pupils’ horizons by taking them on a trip to the Houses of Parliament and also setting up a twinning arrangement with a school in Paris.
Mrs Holden said: “It’s an upward curve. We have set ourselves a standard that we have to attain and improve upon and I think we will - you can always get better.”