April 2016 - Monitoring Visit

We recently played host to Ofsted again, almost one year after our last inspection. We can now share the findings of the monitoring visit.

Click here for a full copy of the letter

With this kind of visit there are no `outstanding`, `good` or `requires improvement` judgements, only a view on whether or not the school is `taking effective action to tackle areas identified in the previous inspection as needing to improve`.

The judgement was positive, that is, we are taking effective action.

Beyond this judgement there was plenty more to concentrate the mind. Amongst the good news was the following:

  • Pupils are eager to learn and respond especially well when they are challenged to think more deeply about their work.
  • Pupils’ behaviour in lessons has improved due to the consistent application by all staff of the new behaviour policy and procedures.
  • As explained by one of the pupils, ‘the school enables you to find out what you enjoy and what you are particularly good at’. This, together with the positive relationships they form with each other and with their teachers, helps the pupils to develop in confidence and self-esteem.
  • You and your staff have established a safe and orderly environment and a positive ethos for learning.
  • Pupils say they feel safe in the academy and policies relating to safeguarding and special educational needs are now compliant with current statutory guidance.
  • Pupils particularly excel in the creative aspects of the curriculum, such as baking bread or dying wool in ‘handwork’ lessons, and they sing exceptionally well.
  • Governors have a clear understanding of their role in holding senior leaders to account for the standards that pupils reach and in ensuring suitable strategic direction for the academy.
  • You and the special educational needs coordinator hold teachers and teaching assistants to account for their pupils’ achievement through individual meetings with them each term.
  • An example of the increasingly effective practice was seen in a Year 5 (class 4) mathematics lesson on equivalent fractions. All pupils were challenged to select appropriate methods and to explain them, with the most able pupils working in hundreds and thousands. The teacher checked for misconceptions and addressed them promptly. The work in their books showed that all pupils were making good progress in applying calculation skills in problem solving.
  • Through the more robust system for the performance management of teachers, you identify their most relevant training needs. This is leading to improvements in the teaching and learning of English and mathematics.

The inspector observed all the classes in action plus one kindergarten group. She also spent time scrutinizing students’ work, interviewing students, staff and governors and checking documentation and at one point got `descended on` by a group of Class 8 pupils who wanted to tell her about the school.
Of course, the real focus and value of a monitoring visit like this is not to be told what we are doing well (although that is always welcome) but to be given a clear view on what still needs attention. We were told to take further action to `speed up the rate of improvement in three key areas`. These were:

  • extending the monitoring and evaluation skills of all senior and subject leaders so that they are able to identify gaps in learning and provide relevant support
  • defining expectations of learning and progress throughout the academy, and refining the procedures for assessing achievement accordingly
  • developing teachers’ skills in assessing pupils’ understanding, and in adapting lessons and providing feedback to ensure all make good progress, including the most able, disadvantaged pupils and those with special educational needs or disability.

We are now looking closely at how we can speed up progress in these areas and in the next newsletter I will say more about our subject leads, our new approach to assessment and how these things will go a long way towards addressing these three points.

June 2015 - Ofsted Report

Following a two day visit in June 2015, our early years provision was deemed ‘good’, and overall the school was judged to ‘require improvement’.

We believe it to be a fair judgement and an accurate representation of where we were at this stage. We will be re-visited for a full inspection within the next two years.

Click here for a full copy of the report

What are our strengths?

The inspectors identified many things that we do well and here are the key points:

  • Warm and caring relationships underpin the academy’s harmonious and safe environment.
  • The distinctive curriculum, with its focus on co-operation and outdoor learning, is effective in promoting students’ spiritual, moral and social development.
  • The good management of the provision for students with special educational needs ensures their needs are carefully assessed, the right support is in place and they make good progress.
  • Students enjoy being in the academy. They form strong friendships with each other. Students commented that ‘they get to be themselves’ and ‘quickly feel part of a family’.
  • Older students are compassionate and caring of younger ones and there are no barriers between students of different backgrounds or abilities. Parents report that this is one of the significant strengths of the academy.
  • There has been an effective response to bullying. Intervention is thoughtful and tackles the underlying issues successfully.

What do we need to improve?

You will see from the report that the leadership and management team is expected to make improvements in these key areas:

  • The management of pupils’ behaviour;
  • The quality of teaching in certain areas and the way we assess and record pupil progress;
  • The way in which the school governors and I implement the strategic development of the school;
  • Attendance – ensuring all students attend as regularly as they can and are punctual.

What next?

Already in place:

The appointment of a Vice Principal, an additional Special Education Needs Coordinator (SENCo), two experienced class teachers and three new governors, all with extensive educational expertise:

  • Restructuring of our Senior Management Team and the Board of Governors in order to focus and implement the School Improvement Plan.

Next Steps:

  • Extend the current review of behaviour strategies, building on the process already started in Early Years;
  • Build on the new Gifted and Talented Policy and ensure a broader approach to differentiation in order to provide a sustained challenge for all students;
  • Expand provision in areas that have been compromised on our temporary site, including art, gardening, music, eurythmy, drama and after school clubs;
  • Consolidate recent improvements in the way we communicate with parents;
  • Review the way we assess pupil progress, linking it more closely to teacher appraisal and the school’s improvement plan;
  • Respond more rigorously to poor and unauthorized attendance.

If you wish to discuss any aspect of this letter or the Ofsted report with myself or members of our board, please contact the school.