SCHOOLS watchdog Ofsted says John Kyrle High School and Sixth Form “Requires improvement”.
The report on the Ross-on-Wye academy school following a two-day inspection at the end of March says change is specifically needed to upgrade the quality of its education and leadership.
And it sees the school fall from the second ’Good’ overall level at its last inspection in 2017 to the third level.
With a new head set to start in September, an unofficial parents’ group has claimed the Ofsted report is the “worst” in the school’s history.
But acting headteacher Mark Burton has told parents and carers in a letter that while “a little disappointed by the overall judgement of ‘Requires improvement’”, changes are in hand and Ofsted has noted “some of the school’s many strengths”.
It comes after a turbulent two years at the 1,400-roll school, which witnessed the shock departure of long-serving head Nigel Griffiths over the Christmas holidays.
Alongside Covid shutdowns and restrictions, controversies have included the loss of a costly employment tribunal case brought by a former teacher, and a £187,000 legal bill for an unsuccessful challenge to the setting up of a Forest of Dean school’s sixth form.
The appointments of more than 20 school directors were also terminated in a major upheaval, including 12 in one fell swoop last year.
An action plan issued by the Department for Education to be fully implemented by the end of the 2021/22 academic year was also issued, following an “external review of governance” initiated by the school ‘Members’, who oversee the board of trustees, although its findings have never been published.
Whilst acknowledging the school is ‘Good” for ‘Behaviour and Attitudes’, ‘Personal development’ and ’Sixth-form provision’, Ofsted says the school ‘Requires improvement’ for ‘The quality of education’ and ‘Leadership and management’.
The report says: “Curriculum planning in some subjects does not set out the essential knowledge that leaders expect pupils to know and remember…
“Leaders should ensure that, in all subjects, teachers are clear about the content pupils need to know and remember.”
It adds that “in some subjects, teachers do not check pupils’ understanding within lessons well enough”.
“This means that teachers do not always know which pupils need additional help,” say the inspectors.
“Leaders should ensure that teachers know how to check learning effectively in their subjects.”
Of the recent upheavals, the report notes: “There have been significant changes to the governance of the school since the previous inspection.
“Most members of the current governing body have been in place since September 2021. They are ambitious for the school and keen for it to improve.
“However, governors currently do not have the knowledge needed to hold leaders to account for the quality of education in the school.”
And it adds that school leaders have “not ensured that there are clear and well-understood policies in place for some aspects of the school’s work, including curriculum, teaching and behaviour”.
“Leaders should ensure that there are strong and well-understood policies in place for these important aspects of the school’s work,” says the report.
In his letter, acting head Mr Burton admits the report by the five-strong inspection team is “a fair reflection” of what they saw in their two-day visit.
“The inspection team was fully supportive of the school’s direction of travel and the work being done to bring about improvements, but they had to judge based on where we were in March,” he says.
Changes had already been made to “improve” structure and consistency through a new behaviour policy, he said, while “much work is going on behind the scenes to ensure consistency of expectations relating to teaching and learning”.
“This includes new appointments to key roles within the school.
“The inspectors noted: “The interim headteacher, supported by leaders, is taking effective steps to remove inconsistency”.
Mr Burton also pointed out that Ofsted praised the school for behaviour and attitudes, personal development and its sixth form provision.
Pupils are “confident, polite and welcoming” and the school “calm and orderly”, adds the report.
Curriculum leadership in most subjects “ensures” clear learning for pupils, while the sixth form has “very positive” relationships between staff and students to support learning, he adds.
The report says “arrangements for safeguarding are effective”, and Mr Burton notes that the inspectors say “Staff take pupils’ welfare seriously”.
To see the full report, go to www.jkhs.org.uk/ofsted
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