Failing school told it must do better

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A Doncaster school is being placed in special measures only nine months after it converted to academy status.

The headteacher of Armthorpe Academy has promised ‘we will improve’ after Ofsted inspectors issued a damning report which labelled achievement of pupils, quality of teaching, pupils’ behaviour, and leadership all ‘inadequate’.

The Ofsted team carried out a two-day inspection in February but their report, newly published, also criticises the governing body for not checking closely on the Mere Lane school’s performance.

There are currently 739 pupils on the school roll, including 120 sixth-formers, but the numbers are said to be falling and it is smaller than the average secondary school.

Armthorpe became an academy last July in partnership with three others which make up The Consortium of Community Trusts. Last summer’s ‘significantly below average’ GCSE results at Grades A* to C meant an inspection would be critical.

The inspectors’ report states:

n Teaching is inadequate in Key Stages 3 and 4. As a result students make inadequate progress throughout the academy, including maths and particularly in English.

n Teachers’ expectations of the quality, quantity and presentation of students’ work and of their behaviour are not high enough.

n Teachers’ marking does not always tell students what they have achieved and what to do next.

n Students’ behaviour and attitudes do not support good learning in enough lessons.

n Attendance is not improving quickly enough and is hindering students’ progress.

n The governing body is unable to help steer the academy forward because it does not have systems to enable it to check closely on performance.

The school’s only strengths were said to be that students feel safe and the sixth form has a greater proportion of good teaching.

The Chief Inspector of Ofsted says Armthorpe needs 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’.

It is the second Doncaster school to be placed in special measures in the past six weeks, although Balby Carr Community Sports and Science College said their report was ‘unfair and unbalanced’.

Armthorpe Academy headteacher Andy Cope yesterday acknowledged: “Given our very disappointing results last summer it would have been very difficult for the Ofsted inspectors to give us a good report.

“But we do feel that progress has been made in the last 18 months and this hasn’t really received the attention we would want in the report.

“We fully accept there are specific areas for improvement mentioned in the report, which are the right ones, and we are absolutely determined to respond positively.

“We are aware of the need for urgency and we want all students and parents to understand that improvement is necessary and is going to happen. We immediately started working on this as soon as the inspection was completed at the end of February.

“Students will see changes and improvements in school immediately and those changes will need to be reflected in improved results. If there is any consolation from this report it is that we must improve and we will improve.”

The school has also been ‘strongly recommended’ not to appoint newly qualified teachers.