School’s GCSE results ‘will improve’ this year, says underfire headteacher

Donna Trusler, principal at Manor Academy.
Donna Trusler, principal at Manor Academy.

The headteacher of a school savaged by Ofsted inspectors has said results will improve, starting with this summer’s GCSEs.

Principal for Manor Academy, Donna Trusler, has come under fire since the education watchdog printed a scathing report in April, insisting every area inspected required improvement or was inadequate.

Manor Academy, Mansfield Woodhouse

Manor Academy, Mansfield Woodhouse

Having been dumped into special measures, criticism has not been in short supply for Mrs Trusler and the running of the school, not helped by reports of a trainee teacher being accidentally poisoned by staff members in a prank, and the police having to be called after a student was caught carrying a hammer in school.

With the recent announcement that the school is to join a multi-academy trust to help pull it out of special measures, the principal agreed to meet with the Chad and answer questions.

Among other issues, concerns have been raised in recent months from parents over the threat of redundancies and a controversial iPad scheme introduced in 2014.

However, Mrs Trusler says underpinning the school’s entire system is the GCSE results, which suffered last year.

Just 39 per cent achieved five A*-C grades, a full 30 per cent lower than the national average.

They were not the lowest in the region, but Mrs Trusler clearly sees the results as the catalyst to a brighter future.

“I took this job knowing that the GCSE results needed to be much better,” she said.

“If they are not right, everything is conducive to that, and if we can sort that out the kids should get the experience they deserve.

“The GSCE results have never been good and have never been at national level, that goes back before my predecessors tenure.

“We are optimistic the August results will be better than last year.”

Manor hit the headlines two years after announcing the school would be investing heavily in iPads for its 1,200 pupils.

Costing £280,000 over three years, questions were posed about the cost and its success.

Mrs Trusler said of the scheme: “It’s been hugely helpful, but next year is the last year of the deal.

“It’s been similar to a car lease, you rent them for three years, give them back or buy them.

“It’s a huge investment to continue doing that.

“I followed the normal financial process and other academies have used a similar company.”

However, she said no decision has been made on whether the scheme will continue.

Some blamed the iPad scheme for causing financial problems and meant redundancies were imminent.

Mrs Trusler admitted one PE teacher had to be culled, but assured the Chad that the school will be fully staffed by September.

“There has been one compulsory redundancy, and there are no plans for anymore,” she said.

“Even with the huge cuts we have still managed to invest, sadly lots of other schools have had it far worse.

“It’s about a collegiate approach and we have a job to do to get where our results need to be.”

Mrs Trusler also denied allegations there had been a “climate of fear” among staff members which led to a mass exodus, a total of 32 over a two-year period.

She was also puzzled about allegations that former teachers were made to sign gagging orders when they left to prevent them from going public with details about the school.

“I have idea where that has come from, and it’s a shame that they might think that - I’m not aware of people being gagged,” added Mrs Trusler.

“The support the staff receive is huge, they can contact us on a personal or a professional level

“They are not going to walk away because it gets difficult, they can now see a tangible way forward.”

Meanwhile, pupil numbers has also been addressed, with the school running at two-thirds of its potential capacity.

She explained: “This is a population trend and we were told years ago that we would see this dip.

“I’ve seen this gradual decline with the trend but we’re working closely with the primary schools to help build it back up again.

“We have not had students leave because of this Ofsted report, and I’m hugely encouraged by that.”

Despite the fallout that followed the report, Manor’s principal is convinced the schools is now on the right track, and equally as important, the parents are behind her and the school.

She added: “They have been concerned, it’s understandable, but we have asked them to come in to see us, look around and talk about any concerns they might have.

“There are rumours, but the facts are held by myself and the parents who come in and spend their time here.

“People have said they are fully behind us, the positivity is definitely there and I feel hugely blessed. They have been superb overall.

“Nobody ever thought being a principal would be an easy job, but I love it and I have the passion for it.”