Northamptonshire secondary school rated ‘requires improvement’ by Ofsted for first time, but leaders lodge complaint

Inspectors raised issues around the curriculum, behaviour management and more, but the school says there are “inaccuracies”
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A Northamptonshire secondary school has been rated ‘requires improvement’ by Ofsted for the first time ever.

Guilsborough Academy, in West Haddon Road, was inspected by the education watchdog on October 3 and 4, this year.

The sixth form provision kept its ‘good’ ranking, but all other areas of the school including quality of education, behaviour and attitudes, personal development and leadership and management were rated ‘requires improvement’.

Guilsborough Academy.Guilsborough Academy.
Guilsborough Academy.

This is the first time the school has ever been rated anything other than ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’. Leaders at the school dispute the ranking and have said they are “challenging the finding as inaccurate”. The school has lodged a formal complaint.

What the report states

In a report published on the Ofsted website on Wednesday (December 20), inspectors told the school it needs to improve in a number of areas including informaring pupils how staff deal with bullying, making sure all staff use the agreed approach for managing behaviour and ensuring all staff check pupils’ understanding of a subject matter.

The report says: “Pupils feel safe in school and know who they can talk to if they have any concerns.

“However, some pupils said that bullying happens and they often hear homophobic language. They are not always confident that the school will deal with these issues.

The report adds: “In some subjects, teachers deliver the curriculum well. They have good subject knowledge. They present new topics clearly and check that pupils understand what they have learned.

“This is not done consistently well in all lessons. Sometimes, when explaining new topics, teachers present too much information. Some pupils find this confusing as they have too much to take in.”

Inspectors also said that a clear behaviour system is in place, which “some” staff use well, but that it is not “consistent”.

Another area in which inspectors raised concerns was with how allegations of bullying are dealt with. Inspectors said some pupils said that the school does not deal with bullying well and that discriminatory language is common, despite inspectors acknowledging that the school has worked on these issues, they report that some pupils still hold these views.

The school’s SEND provision was praised by inspectors, although the report says “not all teachers used the information to support pupils to access the curriculum”.

Reaction from the school

In response to the Ofsted report, both the principal of the school and the chair of the board of trustees have spoken out to criticise not only the grading, but also the way the inspection was carried out.

Principal, Simon Frazer, said: “All staff and I are hugely disappointed by Ofsted’s judgement.

“We have been working tirelessly post-Covid and since the previous Ofsted report to implement changes as we evolved to a single academy trust.

“We know what we need to do to improve, we had implemented successful improvement plans following the previous interim inspection.

“We have our concerns regarding the inspection process and how two teams, inspecting the same institution, only 17 months apart, can make such differing judgements. We fully accept work is still required within the behaviour and attitudes strand.

“However, only 17 months earlier, the inspection team conducting the same number of 'deep dives' in many of the same subjects gave the academy and its trust board very different feedback in terms of the ‘quality of education’.

“At a time when the Department for Education states that the majority of inspection outcomes match with the outcomes for students, Guilsborough Academy seems to fall outside of this with our results placing us in the top 10 non-selective schools in our local authority.

“Our students' results have improved, with outcomes higher than other schools in the county which have better Ofsted grades despite lower outcomes for students.

The principal added that he welcomes any contributions from parents, and asks them to reach out so he can update them on improvement plans and answer any questions.

Mr Frazer continued: “The findings of this inspection do not reflect the excellent outcomes our students achieve and will not define the students or staff at Guilsborough Academy.

“We will continue to work tirelessly together to drive improvement and excel in all areas, to provide an exceptional education for all our students.”

‘Issues that we had with how the inspection was carried out’

Chair of the board of trustees, Kevin Rogers, said: “We are disappointed with the final report provided by Ofsted.

“We had alerted Ofsted to some factual inaccuracies and as result, provided comments in response to the initial draft inspection report, which resigned us to logging a formal complaint.

“I have massive respect for the principal... and his team and the changes that they are making to improve the school.

“Their goal is to make the academy ‘outstanding’, and so to get this inspection… so soon into that journey of improvement, was tough to take.

“There were other issues that we had with how the inspection was carried out, and we advocated for our students as you would expect.

“I have struggled to understand how the curriculum (which has not changed) was assessed so differently 17 months apart, but we must accept it, and keep improving, which (ironically) was the plan in any event.

“The board will continue to challenge the academy to do more, to excel, and to pass the next inspection with flying colours.”

Mr Rogers added that the desired outcome from the formal complaint would be a re-inspection earlier than the statutory 30 months. He also says the school “will prove the inaccuracies in the report wrong”.