Head insists Berwick Academy is making progress

Berwick Academy head teacher Alexis Widdowson insists there are encouraging signs despite the overall conclusion of its latest Ofsted report.

Thursday, 17th March 2016, 8:40 am
Updated Thursday, 17th March 2016, 8:43 am
Berwick Academy, headteacher Alexis Widdowson
Berwick Academy, headteacher Alexis Widdowson

Inspectors ruled that the school ‘requires improvement’ in several areas and made criticisms of the quality of teaching and concerns about pupil outcomes.

Mrs Widdowson, in a letter to parents, said: “Although the overall judgement of the school remains the same, and there is still room for improvement, we were encouraged by much of the content of the report.

“The Ofsted inspectors commented on the improved quality of learning seen in Year 9 lessons and in the sixth form. Subjects singled out for praise included maths, design & technology, art and childcare. Improvements were also noted in history and geography.

Over the last 18 months, Steve Wilkes, the Deputy Headteacher, has worked with Heads of Faculty to monitor the quality of teaching and marking in books. I am pleased that the Inspectors acknowledged all of the work that has been done in this area.

“We now need to ensure we sustain this improvement in teaching going forward and that we encourage students to take full advantage of the improvements.

“Ms Flanagan’s leadership of sixth form was also singled out for praise and we are delighted that her hard work has been acknowledged. Behaviour in sixth form lessons was seen to be good and the teaching well adapted to the needs of the student

“Students across all year groups reported that they feel safe at the Academy and that bullying is not tolerated. This, together with the excellent work in all areas of safeguarding, confirms that the school is a safe place for children.

“Governance was also an area which received the Inspector’s endorsement.

“I am well aware that there is much in the report which highlights areas for further work. We have always been open and honest with our parents about the further improvements which we know need to be made.

“I will be meeting with Governors this weekend to start to plan our priorities going forward and the findings of the report will provide a valuable framework for this process.”

She added: “Please be aware that the Ofsted Report is a formal mechanism which is constrained by tight parameters and ground rules. Once the Inspectors have arrived at a “best fit” judgement, some of the more encouraging findings are lost in the quality assurance process

“We accept that this is a necessary part of ensuring reports are consistent, but we are disappointed that the report does not make sufficient distinction between the very encouraging signs which they observed during their visit and the historic performance of the school.

“The inspection team’s main concerns focused around historic outcomes in Science and English. In both cases, they saw excellent teaching from dedicated teachers, who are working hard to ensure your children get the best possible outcomes in their forthcoming exams.

“The inspectors highlighted many more positive aspects in their feedback to the governors and it is disappointing that these positive comments haven’t made their way into the final Ofsted report.

“I remain confident that, if we all work together to promote good teaching, attendance, behaviour and engagement, the outcomes will follow.”

Ofsted inspectors had reported that senior leaders had not made rapid improvements in the quality of teaching and learning. Middle leaders had only recently taken on responsibility for ensuring that teachers are accountable for the progress pupils make in their classes.

As a result, outcomes are not high enough and the school continues to require improvement.

They pointed out that outcomes at GCSE have fallen since the previous inspection as a result of lower rates of progress in English and science.

Attendance is below average and the gaps in attainment and progress between disadvantaged pupils and others are too wide, inspectors reported.

The report states that teaching, learning and assessment are inconsistent and that teachers do not always ensure that pupils are fully on task.

Some low-level disruption is present during lessons and this hampers learning on occasions, while some pupils do the minimum work, rather than really getting involved in lessons.

Inspectors urged the school to take swift action to eradicate variation in pupils’ performance and improve communication with parents.

It has also been tasked with improving the quality of teaching across the school so that it is consistently good in order to increase rates of pupils’ progress, particularly in science and English.

Inspectors also want to see a raising in expectations of what all pupils can achieve.

They also call for an external review of the school’s use of the pupil premium should be undertaken.

Although the school’s leadership is deemed to require improvement, it does receive praise.

Self-evaluation is accurate and leaders are clear about what needs to be done, states the report. It adds that leaders are acting decisively to address historic weaknesses and improvements are beginning to bear fruit.

As a result of the increasing effectiveness of leadership and management of the sixth form, outcomes for learners are improving quickly.

Teaching in some subjects is good, for example in mathematics, design technology, art and childcare. Improvements are evident in history and geography.

The school’s safeguarding work is good and inspectors praised the curriculum. The alternative curriculum provided by the Eden Centre prepares pupils well.