A SCHOOL previously rated ‘inadequate’ and placed in special measures is now in the top five per cent performing schools in England.

Reading Girls’ School, in Whitley, is now the best performing non-selective school in Reading, and the seventh best performing school in Berkshire.

Despite this, the school still has a bad reputation, its principal Jon Gargan said. Ofsted inspected the school in December 2015, and the following February rated it ‘inadequate’.

However, since Mr Gargan joined and the school converted to an academy in September 2017, much has changed, and he said the reputation is ‘not fair on the kids’.

Debbie Hargrave, the school’s pastoral leader, said: “In the last three years we’ve really seen a difference.”

The school now teaches for six hours a day instead of five. Money that used to be spent on agency supply teachers is now used for extra tutoring for Year 11 pupils, and there is a new bus service for Year 7s.

Grace Ewing, Year 11, said: “We’ve had a lot of tutoring and support to help with our GCSEs.”

Elly Johns-Turner, a student science teacher, said her pupils ‘have real ownership’ of their learning and ‘often ask for what they’ve missed’ if they are off sick.

Cara Kitima, Year 11, said: “There’s a community sense within the school.”

Jodi Eustace, Year 7, said: “Mr Gargan takes the time to recognise every student, gets to know each of them, and asks them how their day goes.”

Mr Gargan, who has lived in Whitley for 20 years, said the deprivation of the area creates a stigma. He said: “If it were in Caversham, it would be full. People have a stereotypical perception of school in rough areas.”

The school encourages parents considering sending their children to visit without making an appointment. Pupils in Year 8 take turns to do reception duty, and often show parents around.

Mr Gargan said: “The best thing about the school by a country mile is the kids in it. When parents come in, they are gobsmacked. It’s a world away from 2015.”