Berwick Academy deemed '˜inadequate' by Ofsted

Ofsted inspectors have delivered a highly critical verdict on Berwick Academy.

Monday, 26th March 2018, 1:10 pm
Updated Monday, 26th March 2018, 4:33 pm
Berwick Academy

The long-awaited report on the inspectors’ visit in January has been published on the school’s website.

It has been deemed ‘inadequate’ in several key areas and inspectors have recommended that it be placed in special measures.

Lead inspector Tudor Griffiths states: ‘This school requires special measures because it is failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education and the persons responsible for leading, managing or governing the school are not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvement in the school.’

Headteacher Alexis Widdowson quit last month and inspectors have criticised leadership and management at the school.

Quality of teaching and learning, overall effectivenes, pupil behaviour and outcomes for pupils are also branded inadequate.

Mr Griffiths, in his summary, states: ‘This is an inadequate school.

‘Leaders have failed to improve the school sufficiently since the previous inspection. They have been too slow to tackle weaknesses in teaching and pupils’ outcomes.

‘Pupils’ outcomes are inadequate. Pupils underachieve significantly at key stage 4. Too many, including those who are disadvantaged and the most able, are failed by the school.

‘Teaching has not improved rapidly enough since the last inspection. There is significant variation in the quality of teachers’ questioning and the development of pupils’ literacy skills.

‘Leaders did not anticipate the poor 2017 GCSE results because they believed that pupils were doing better than they actually were.

‘While leaders have developed plans for improvement, there is little evaluation of the success of actions taken. Leaders are unable to say with confidence what works well.

‘Governors are failing to hold leaders and managers to account effectively. Governors do not have a close enough watch on the impact additional funding is having on pupils’ progress.

‘Teachers have not assessed pupils’ work accurately. The expectations for what pupils, and especially boys, are able to achieve in lessons are too low.

‘Pupils’ attitudes and behaviour, in and out of class, are not always positive and very often their behaviour is inadequate. Pupils regularly disrupt lessons and not all teachers have confidence in the school’s behaviour management system.

‘Too many pupils are regularly absent from school. The attendance of disadvantaged pupils is especially low. Leaders have not been successful in putting into place actions to improve attendance rapidly enough.

‘Leaders have not ensured that the safeguarding arrangements in the school are effective. Pupils have been put at risk.’

Inspectors have called for urgent improvements in the effectiveness of leadership and management, including governance; further develop the quality of teaching, learning and assessment so that all groups of pupils make strong progress across a wide range of subjects; and urgently act to develop a culture of safeguarding in the school through improving pupils’ behaviour and attendance.

Coun Georgina Hill, who has led calls for change at the school, now believes the position of the governors is untenable.

She said: “As I have said before, the failure of leadership extended beyond just the head. The governors positions are completely untenable especially now their failure has been highlighted by Ofsted in this way.

“The school authorities must now cease all action against parents who are being pursued for poor attendance - which is mainly as a result of their legitimate concern for the safety and well-being of their children.

“Also they need to put a stop to any ongoing disciplinary action against staff who have been trying to blow the whistle.”

Berwick MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan also revealed that she discussed the school with the secretary of State for Education last week.

She said: “The Berwick Academy Ofsted report has caused a great deal of concern for parents, pupils and the wider community.

“I have been working behind the scenes for a number of weeks with the Regional Schools Commissioner, the acting head and the council to make sure that parents can have trust in the environment that their children are in, and that we have a robust and serious plan of action for the school.

“Last week, I held an urgent meeting with the Secretary of State to discuss Berwick Academy and education provision in north Northumberland in detail.

“I will be continuing to hold discussions with the council, Government and Regional Schools Commissioner this week so that the Academy has a strong future, which prioritises good governance, a safe and happy school environment and high quality teaching for all our students. If you have any concerns then please do contact me in complete confidence on [email protected]

There are few positives in the report but Ofsted has said that sixth-form provision now better matches the needs of students. Students make good progress from their starting points, particularly in vocational subjects.

They also say the school makes effective use of the funding available to support pupils who have special educational needs (SEN) and/or disabilities.

The school is yet to comment but it is understood there will be a public meeting after Easter.