WHEN Scott Holder arrived as head teacher at Philip Morant School and College it was something of a hurry.

He began on September 1, the day after he was confirmed in the post.

He said: “It was a lot of long days. Usually there would be a lot of time for anyone coming in and I didn’t have that. But I did have a good team around me, supportive staff and leadership.”

Taking on Philip Morant School was always going to be a tough ask.

Years ago, it was one of the best secondary schools in the country and parents bought houses in its catchment area to gain their children a place there.

But Philip Morant School has endured a tough few years. From abolishing homework, an unpopular move with parents, to failing to deal with claims of bullying from students, the school imploded when the headteacher and chief executive officer of the Thrive Trust, which ran the school, were suspended.

Both eventually left their posts last summer but questions by parents as to what had happened went unanswered.

The Department for Education called for a rebrokering of the school and the Sigma Trust stepped up to take on the job.

Since September, a slow but steady revival has begun of restoring confidence for parents, staff and students.

Mr Holder, who was previously co-head at Stanway School, said: “It was clear students and staff had been working hard despite that challenging environment. It is difficult when you get an inadequate Ofsted report.

“But one thing was clear immediately and that was how well students had done in their summer exams. They were much improved and it was a good springboard to make sure we carried on that trajectory.”

Mr Holder and his team got together an action plan and top of the list was restoring parent confidence and trust.

Homework was also reinstated.

Mr Holder said: “It was about establishing stability. I make sure I am accessible and parent issues are dealt with swiftly.

“There is a clear dialogue with parents and that is going to be a continued focus. We own any issues and see a resolution through to the end.”

The policy has been put into practice with parents recently consulted on the proposed change of Years 9, 10 and 11 studying for GCSEs rather than just the latter two years.

With GCSEs becoming harder, students need more time to learn the content and skills needed for the higher grades so feedback is welcomed.

Student rewards and punishments have also been refocused, with a clear set of consistent guidelines.

It means students know exactly what will happen when they do well and when they don’t.

Staff and students also routinely get together to share feedback so teachers know exactly what to plan in upcoming lessons.

Mr Holder said: “It’s about consequences and rewards. We are rewarding good behaviour and action so we celebrate the students and their work.

“They get postcards home to reward them for positive work so parents and students know they are being recognised.”

A clean slate is being drawn including in its Ofsted rating.

The school dropped from good to inadequate at the height of its troubles but when a school is taken over by a trust or is turned into an academy it is classed as a new school. As such, Philip Morant’s previous ratings have been wiped clean.

It is both a help and a hindrance according to Sigma Trust chief executive officer Jeff Brindle.

He said: “Ofsted won’t come back for another three years.

“In my view I would prefer it if they did do monitoring visits but it is to give those schools who have been struggling for longer than Philip Morant the time to take action.”

Mr Holder and the Sigma Trust arguably have enough to deal with in trying to restore the school to its former glory.

While they are keen to have friendly rivalry with other schools, they are also focused on encouraging shared practice between all so students have access to the best possible facilities and teaching.

Mr Holder said: “The best practice is shared practice. All schools have great practice and it’s about working collaboratively.

“Too often in the past we are pitting schools against each other and parents battle to get their children into that one school.

“But it’s about supporting each other and making sure all students have the best education.”

Philip Morant School is already putting words into action by supporting another school through its art department.

It is an important ideal, especially as Paxman Academy will be opening in September just a few hundred yards away.

As it stands, the new academy does not have funding confirmed with the Department of Education until later this year. It means children applying for Paxman Academy have to apply to go to both Paxman and Philip Morant schools.

When the funding is confirmed in April, parents will then be asked to choose between the two.

Mr Holder said: “We know there has been good uptake for both schools. The only thing we can do is to showcase the benefits of Philip Morant.”

Philip Morant and Paxman Academy will have the same governing body which will mean they share facilities as well as teaching methods to ensure all children get the best education.

Mr Holder added: “I was genuinely excited when I first came to Philip Morant on September 1 and I still am.

“I’m not sure there will ever be a time when we say we have succeeded. Schools are always moving forward and we will continue to do that with our staff, parents and students into the future.”