At bottom of the league tables, no-one will deny Headlands School needs to improve. But despite some progress made over the past two years, the council has decided to put it under the control of the Local Education Authority.

A FAILING secondary school has been taken under the control of Swindon Council.

The headteacher John Wells and governors of Headlands School in Cricklade Road will no longer be responsible for the budget and staffing of the school.

The council will take over control of financial matters, and it says this will leave school staff free to concentrate on improving teaching and learning.

Staff were told about the move in a meeting at 2.30pm yesterday and Ian Hill of the National Union of Teachers, said that they were "upset, worried and confused" by the move.

It will been seen by some as a blow to Mr Wells, who has only been in charge for two years in his first ever headship.

This year Headlands School in Cricklade Road has come bottom of the school league tables for GCSE results in 2002, with just 16 per cent gaining the benchmark five passes at A to C.

Its truancy rate is the highest of the town's secondary schools at two per cent.

But the school has seen a steady improvement over the last two years under the leadership of Mr Wells, with results up two per cent on last year and five per cent on 2000.

Swindon Council's director of education Hilary Pitts said: "Everyone at the school has worked hard to rectify the issues we have at the school.

"However the pace of improvement has not been as rapid as we would all like.

"We are all very aware that we are dealing with the futures of our young people so we cannot afford to wait."

The council is using powers that it has under section 17 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 allowing it to intervene in the running of a school.

Mr Wells was upbeat about the council's intervention.

He said: "I am very pleased that the LEA is giving us additional support to increase the pace of change of the school.

"The school has shown a trend of improvement over the last two years and Her Majesty's inspectors have endorsed the school's action plan.

"The local education authority and the school are now working in partnership to secure the goals we have set ourselves for success."

Headlands School was placed into special measures in October 2002 under the category of 'challenging circumstances'.

The majority of its pupils are drawn from Penhill and Pinehurst. A quarter of the pupils at Headlands have free school meals and almost half have been identified as having special educational needs.

In the Ofsted report of October last year which placed the school in special measures, Mr Wells was described as "providing strong leadership and management," and praised for his clear vision for the school and innovative strategies.

Keith Defter, chairman of the Swindon Association of Secondary Heads, said: "This is very sad for the school and for the headteacher.

"If you don't get the support of the parents and the students you find yourself in an incredibly difficult position.

"Speaking as a fellow head, John Wells has done all that could be expected of him. "

Ian Hill, Swindon secretary of the National Union of Teachers said: "I think the staff are very, very upset today, and worried about what will happen to them and their pupils.

"This could be helpful but it depends on how it develops.

"I believe there was pressure from the Department for Education and Skills for the authority to make some major changes to the school."