Progress is too slow, say Ofsted inspectors

Ofsted inspectors say not enough effective action is being taken towards the removal of special measures at Berwick Academy.

Thursday, 27th September 2018, 12:00 pm
Berwick Academy

The criticism levelled at leaders and managers is contained in a monitoring inspection - the first since the school was deemed to be inadequate.

After the last inspection in January, Ofsted called for urgent improvement in the effectiveness of leadership and management, including governance.

They also called for the removal of inconsistencies in the quality of teaching and for leaders to raise their expectations of what pupils can and should achieve.

Concerns about pupils’ behaviour and poor attendance were also previously highlighted.

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Darren Stewart, lead inspector, reported: ‘Under challenging circumstances, some of which have been out of senior leaders’ control, the pace for addressing the areas for improvement identified at the previous inspection has been too slow.

‘However, the acting headteacher and other senior leaders have put in place an improvement plan that is steering the school on its improvement journey.

‘Nonetheless, there are still some important areas identified at the previous inspection where the effect is limited. For example, improvements in the quality of teaching and pupils’ outcomes are yet to be recognised.

‘Despite this, the acting headteacher is determined to quicken the pace of improvement and raise standards. He is supported by his senior team who are working together decisively and strategically to effect change.’

He adds: ‘Senior leaders have put strategic plans in place so that they can hit the ground running come September, particularly in improving the quality of teaching, learning and assessment.

‘Senior leaders have taken critical action to improve safeguarding practices and standards of behaviour.’

He reports that an action plan is still needed on the use of pupil premium funding, while there remains a lot of work still to do to improve the opportunities and chances of disadvantaged pupils.

Governance arrangements are disparate at present, the inspector reports, and roles and responsibilities at the highest level are unclear. However, he notes the governors’ passion for the school.

‘There are, undoubtedly, some effective teachers at Berwick Academy,’ the inspector reports. ‘However, there are still too many activities that are planned at a superficial level, rather than providing well-planned learning that is designed to engage, develop, and consolidate pupils’ knowledge, understanding and skills. As a result, too many activities are pitched at a low level and do not to challenge pupils enough, especially the most able and the most able disadvantaged.

‘Overall, between the previous inspection and this monitoring visit, evidence would indicate that improvements in the quality of teaching, learning and assessment have not been addressed with sufficient urgency or pace. As a result, pupils’ rates of progress and levels of attainment have not improved and gaps in their knowledge, skills and understanding remain.’

Attendance remains a major concern for school leaders, he reports. School information indicates that attendance is now the lowest it has been in the past three years.

The school’s assessment information indicates that current Year 11 pupils’ outcomes will be worse than those of Year 11 in 2017 and that underachievement is prevalent across a wide range of subjects, including English and maths.

Acting headteacher Steve Wilkes has pledged to build on the improvements made at Berwick Academy, whilst acknowleding that there is still much to be done.

“We have already made large steps in the areas of safeguarding and behaviour,” he wrote in a letter to parents. “These were our priorities for the summer term.

“We will continue to build on these foundations, and now turn our attention to improving attendance and ensuring that teaching, learning and assessment becomes more challenging.

“It is because these two areas are not yet showing improvement that he feels that we have not made expected progress, even though improvements in other areas is beyond what would have been expected.

“It was our strategic decision (as governors, acting headteacher, and senior team acting on external advice) to prioritise behaviour and safeguarding. I believe that this was the right decision. We are now focusing acutely on attendance and improving classroom engagement.”

The school continues to receive additional DfE funding to allow a group of educational experts to meet on a three-week cycle at school, ensuring that the post-Ofsted improvement plan is carried out.

In addition, funding has been secured to allow Neil Hutchinson, an experienced headteacher, to be placed with the school two days a week in an advisory role.

A parent forum meeting is being held at school at 5.30pm on Thursday, October 4 where staff will answer any questions and share what work has been done, to date, and what the future plans are.