For years Thomas More Catholic School in Purley was rated ‘Requires Improvement’ by Ofsted.

But just this week (June 3), after years of hard work by staff and pupils, it was rewarded with the second highest rating of ‘Good’.

We went down to the school to find out more about how they turned things around. The school, which opened in 1962, has been rated Requires Improvement since 2014.

A major factor in the school’s recent success has been  its new headteacher.

Current Year 9 pupils have seen four headteachers – some temporary –  come and go, but in September 2018 Nathan Walters joined the school permanently as head, and has no plans to move on anytime soon.

He was previously deputy head at Archbishop Tenison High School in Croydon.

Asked what he had done to turn around the fortunes of the troubled school, his answer was simple, a bit of stability.

He adds that he has brought back the focus in the school to what really matters, the happiness of the kids. And the handful of students we see and speak to seem to feel valued and supported.

Mr Walters said: “It has been a relatively troubled time at the school, what a school needs, like a football club, is stability.

“The easiest thing I can do is be here and stay here. It brings that stability.

“There is a sense that the most important thing is that we care enough to stay and this is the school we chose to be in and we known the job that we’ve come to do.

A Catholic ethos?

The impressive Venetian Gothic style building stands at the top of Russell Hill Road. It was built in 1863 and was first used as an orphanage.

In 1962 it was sold to the Catholic Diocese of Southwark and became a school.

Now more than 750 pupils fill the corridors as well as nearly 100 sixth formers. As a Catholic school, pupils attend mass for  important Catholic days.

But Mr Walters added: “I am not the type just to take Catholic children. Catholicism is very important in the school but it is most evident in the way we treat each other.”

All children study RE and say prayers at the beginning of the day but the new head thinks that the Catholic ethos is most evident in the way that staff and pupils treat each other.

He adds: “One of the things that Ofsted picked up on was the harmonious atmosphere, which of course isn’t always the way, but there is a great sense of calm.”

Coming in as a new headteacher to a school must be difficult but Mr Walters says that he has been made to feel welcome by students and staff.

Teachers who believe in you

Music lover, Christina Ortega, plays piano, guitar and ukulele as well as being a singer.

But the school doesn’t currently offer music, this is changing in September when a new head of music is set to join the school.

The 15-year-old said: “The thing I like the most is the teachers are really believe in you and they help you follow your dreams.

“Before we didn’t have music so I asked if there could be an exception and I could do my music GCSE.”

Thanks to the help of her teachers with after school lessons the 15-year-old was able to sit her music GCSE.

13-year-old Naomi Semi-retired added: “I really like drama, maths and science and RE.

“The teachers are really supportive if you’re stuck on something they’ll come and help you.

“The atmosphere in the corridor is very good, if you’re lost or something someone will always tell you.”

Klaudiusz Ozog is in Year 10 and says he likes most subjects at school.

He said he is proud that the school ow has a better rating from Ofsted.

The 15-year-old added: “To be honest with you there’s hardly anything I don’t like about school. My favourite subjects are physics and maths.”

This is what Ofsted had to say about Thomas More

The latest report, published on Monday (June 3) was the result of a two day inspection on April 30-May 1.

The report states: “Leaders and governors have successfully created a positive and aspirational culture that staff and pupils have embraced.

“The recently appointed headteacher has led this improvement with determination.”

Inspectors found that children made good progress and disadvantaged pupils and those with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) are well supported.

But while the school has improved overall inspectors deemed the school’s sixth form as ‘requires improvement’.

About education in the sixth form the report said: “Over the past two years, students’ progress in academic courses has been below average.

“Progress in applied courses has varied from below average, in 2017, to

average, in 2018. Current students make better progress than in previous years, in both academic and applied courses.”

It adds that a major factor in underachievement is teenagers not turning up to school, especially in year 13.

But the improvements overall have given the school a boost and Mr Walters thinks this is just the beginning of a better era for the school.

“This good rating is not an end but a beginning,” he said.

“We look forward to develop as a school and we want to become a truly excellent school.

“We are doing this for the students, we want to give them the very best education they could expect.”