Ofsted gives first verdict on Portslade academy as head leaves

Posted On 09 Jan 2013 at 6:43 pm

Oftsed inspectors have said that Portslade Aldridge Community Academy “requires improvement” just weeks after popular head teacher Stuart McLaughlin left the school.

Four inspectors from the official schools watchdog spent two days at PACA last month and gave a brief verbal report at the end of their visit.

Two weeks later Mr McLaughlin announced that he was leaving.

The inspectors’ report was published yesterday (Tuesday 8 January). It can be read here. It said: “This is a school that requires improvement.

The Spearhead

Stuart McLaughlin

“A school that requires improvement is not yet a good school but it is not inadequate. This school will receive a full inspection within 24 months from the date of this inspection.”

Ofsted gives four ratings: outstanding, good, requires improvement and inadequate.

Portslade Community College was found to be inadequate and converted into an academy – PACA – sponsored by multimillionaire old boy Sir Rod Aldridge.

Ofsted said: “Teaching was not good enough in the first year of the academy so students did less well than they should have done in their GCSE examinations, especially in mathematics.

“Students make very different progress in different subjects because subject leaders are not equally good at making sure everyone does the best they can.

“The sixth form requires improvement. Students achieve better on some courses than on others, often because they have not been guided to make choices best suited to their abilities.

“Some staff struggle to manage the behaviour of the most challenging students.

“Gaps in achievement between different groups of students are too wide.

“The principal and senior leaders did not do enough to make sure that teaching and achievement were good in the academy’s first year.”

Ofsted recognised that the academy’s sponsor, the Aldridge Foundation, was taking steps to address the school’s problems.

It recognised a number of good points and said: “Governors have a clear and accurate view of the academy’s strengths and weaknesses and are acting quickly in partnership with the principal and senior leaders to make it improve faster.

Sir Rod Aldridge

“The academy’s use of assessment information to track progress and stop anyone falling behind is now a strength.

“Teaching and leadership in mathematics have improved significantly so that students are making much better progress in lessons.

“Most students make at least the expected progress from their starting points in English.”

The four inspectors spent Thursday 6 and Friday 7 December at the school and sat in on 35 lessons and visited other classes.

Aldridge Foundation chief executive Honor Wilson-Fletcher, who chairs the PACA board of governors, said that she welcomed the school’s first Ofsted report since the opening of the academy in September 2011.

She said: “We are pleased that the report states that ‘the quality of teaching is improving’ and that it shows the real progress that has been made since Ofsted’s inspection of the Community College in its final year (2010), when the school was graded ‘inadequate’.

“It rightly recognises that PACA’s teaching ‘has not been good enough for long enough to close gaps in performance’ or to yet reach the high standards that parents, staff and governors want and that the students have a right to expect.

“PACA is coming through a period of considerable change in terms of teaching and the facilities we have for our students.

“Our current £12.7 million capital investment programme will provide us with a new 6th Form Centre, Music and Performing Arts Centre, science laboratories and a state of the art computer suite, ensuring that our students have the best possible opportunities to progress in future.

“Although the percentage of students achieving five or more GCSEs at A* to C grade rose five percentage points to 70 per cent, the report itself notes that as governors we were not satisfied with the first set of examination results last summer and at that stage we acted swiftly with the academy’s senior leadership team to put plans for more rapid improvement in place.

“The inspectors confirmed the positive impact that these changes have already had, and that our students are ‘doing better year on year’.

“Their report has reinforced the challenges we face in ensuring that we continue to improve faster.

“But PACA’s staff and governors are determined to do that and to take on board all of the inspectors’ comments.”

Honor Wilson-Fletcher

After Mr McLaughlin announced his departure at the end of last term, she said: “Everyone on the PACA governing body has thoroughly enjoyed working with Stuart, who has been consistently good humoured and open minded in his approach to change.

“He is very well liked by staff and students and will be much missed.

“Under his leadership, PACA has made the transition to an academy and Stuart has played a key role in developing the vision for the construction work that is now beginning to transform the Chalky Road site.

“We all wish him the very best for the future.

“The governing body will be working very closely with the senior leadership team at PACA to ensure that the academy remains on track in the new year and we have unanimously decided to appoint James Fox as interim principal for the spring term.

“The governing body will meet in January to agree arrangements for the rest of the school year and a process to appoint a new permanent principal.

“Mr Fox is an experienced school leader who has been working with us at the academy since the beginning of November as part of our team helping to continue raising standards and outcomes for students.

“In that time he has been working in particular with our sixth form.”

Of the 783 pupils at PACA, 116 are in the sixth form which is currently at the top of High Street at the junction of Mile Oak Road.

PACA’s sixth formers should be based in the new £12.7 million building in Chalky Road within a year.

Mr McLaughlin was previously head of Falmer High School which became the Brighton Aldridge Community Academy (BACA).

He wasn’t appointed head of BACA and took up his job in Portslade in September 2009 where he was kept on when the Aldridge Foundation opened PACA.


  1. Glen Povey Reply

    I got good grades at this school, more by dint of my own hard work rather than by the standard of teaching. That was in 1976. I went on to university.
    My experience of this school shows that little if any improvement has been made in teaching standards in the 38 intervening years.
    My parents always impressed on me the need for a good education.
    Sadly, my classes were often interrupted by unruly pupils.
    North Portslade is one of the most deprived areas in the country, a mostly vast sprawling council estate. It must be very difficult for teachers to try to educate kids who simply do not want to learn, not least because their parents never bothered to learn and have a life which is based on social security benefits. I would not walk around North Portslade at night, it is a rather dangerous place.

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