Thomas Clarkson Academy ‘disappointed’ by Ofsted findings that labels teaching, learning and outcomes for pupils as ‘inadequate’ and everything else ‘requires improvement’

PUBLISHED: 12:57 03 May 2016 | UPDATED: 15:09 03 May 2016

Ofsted inspection at Thomas Clarkson Academy. Principal Clare Claxton.

Ofsted inspection at Thomas Clarkson Academy. Principal Clare Claxton.

Archant

Ofsted’s latest inspection of Thomas Clarkson Academy, Wisbech, offers only a fleeting glimpse of hope that the school is on its way to improving.

Quality of teaching, learning and assessment and outcomes for pupils were said by Ofsted to be inadequate.

And leadership, management, behaviour of pupils, personal development and 16 to 19 study programmes were all found by Ofsted to require improvement.

Progress has been undermined by “regular changes in staffing, staff absence and a reliance on temporary staff, together with difficulties in recruiting new teachers”,

But the leadership “at all levels” was attacked by Ofsted for not being held fully accountable for securing widespread improvement.

“This has led to poor examination results and insufficient progress by pupils since the last inspection,” says the report. “This is now being tackled. The senior leadership team has been restructured this year to provide further capacity to drive improvement and new appointments have been made to lead some subjects.”

Ofsted says “teaching is too inconsistent”, marking and feedback is not consistent and recent improvements in pupils’ progress are not consistent throughout all year groups.

And there is criticism that both the most able and some with special educational needs or disability “do not do well enough”.

However in a statement today, Thomas Clarkson Academy insists “the school is on the road to improvement following a disappointing Ofsted judgement”.

The academy said that “despite a sea change in behaviour at the academy in recent years and a raft of new initiatives to ensure that students are well supported and offered a rounded education, the schools inspection body has ruled that the academy is not doing well enough”

Principal Clare Claxton said: “We are disappointed at the Ofsted assessment as staff have worked extremely hard to ensure that our students are given a good education.

“The report follows GCSE exam results in the summer which were not as expected and the inspection has happened as a result of these results.

“We acknowledge that we need to do better and for many months have been putting in place a whole series of measures to target the issues and ensure that this summer’s Year 11 students do well at GCSE.

“We have a large number of students who are high achievers and now we want to make sure that this is the norm.”

She said the judgement comes amid a national teacher recruitment problem “which Ofsted acknowledges is more acute in rural areas like Wisbech”.

She said to combat this recruitment issue the Brooke Weston Trust (BWT), which runs the school is working with outside agencies to develop programmes to entice more experienced teachers to the area.

She said teachers at the school also now undertake weekly training and have tailored professional development.

Ms Claxton said that to further strengthen teaching standards the BWT has also brought into Thomas Clarkson Academy experienced staff from the outstanding Brooke Weston Academy in Northamptonshire to ensure that rapid improvements are now made.

She said that the Ofsted report listed a series of strength in the school, which includes the ability of senior leadership team to drive improvement; a calm learning environment; the support of the Brooke Weston Trust and the governing body and the improvements currently being made by students in Year 11.

Chief Executive of the BWT Andrew Campbell said: “We are firmly committed to raising standards at Thomas Clarkson Academy. Although it has proved to be a very difficult job, with various factors against us such as recruitment issues, we have put in place various measures to ensure that we can deal with these challenges.

“The inspection has acknowledged that the partnership of our senior leadership team and the governing body has the ability to raise achievement levels and that is what we will now do.”

Ofsted looked at 37 lessons over two days in March – and also checked in on tutorials- and discovered at first hand some of the school’s weaknesses.

Much blame was put on a “combination of some inadequate teaching, vacancies, staff absence and subsequent use of temporary staff” for contributing directly to pupils’ underachievement.

Older pupils told Ofsted inspectors they were fed up with the large number of teachers they have had and the detrimental impact this had on their education. It was the same message relayed to Ofsted by parents.

Ofsted found “pockets of good practice” but admitted there were wide variations within and between subjects.

“Expectations of what pupils are capable of are too low,” says the report. “The volume of work, particularly writing at length in subjects other than English, is often minimal for this stage of the academic year.”

There were signs of progress in some lessons and Ofsted praises “knowledgeable and enthusiastic teaching2 in a year 11 English lesson, and in a dance lesson a teacher was also commended for their “good subject knowledge” and enthusiasm.

Ofsted says the school’s records show that throughout 2014 and 2015 teachers struggled to manage pupils’ behaviour “which led to large numbers being excluded from lessons and sent to the isolation room. This is now improving as teachers are using the school’s agreed procedures to manage behaviour more consistently”.

There are clearly some areas of concern which the school cannot pre determine, such as when pupils start at the school.

Ofsted says that there are an increasing number who join at times other than the start of the academic year and many of these have little or no English.


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