A Brighton school has been inspected for the first time since it was placed in “special measures” by Ofsted, the government’s education watchdog.
Inspectors returned to the Brighton Aldridge Community Academy (BACA) last month – days before the end of term – for a monitoring visit, having rated the school “inadequate” in a report published last March.
BACA principal Jack Davies said: “This was a very difficult time for all, students were tired, the snow had not long fallen and we were just starting our Christmas celebrations in the academy.
“I was very pleased that the lead inspector went to watch the Christmas Showcase rehearsals where he was overwhelmed by how supportive the students were to one another.”
Mr Davies wrote to parents on Friday (20 January) with his response to the inspection which focused on ensuring that “leaders in the academy were taking effective action to remove ‘special measures’ and also to ensure that safeguarding is now effective”.
He said: “Both outcomes were successful which is a great achievement in such a short space of time. The school remains in special measures with another monitoring visit in the coming months.
“The safeguarding of pupils was without doubt my biggest concern and ensuring that safeguarding is effective was my number one priority when taking over at the academy.
“The report recognises the ‘in-depth’ knowledge about pupils. We have improvements (to make) to become more consistent logging recruitment checks but these are very minor compared to the feedback from the last inspection.
“Attendance in the academy remains a concern. We are currently not at the national standard for attendance. I will continue to work with pastoral leaders to address attendance concerns.
“There were some peaks in attendance last term which showed some real improvements in attendance but we need to try to all be as resilient as possible over this difficult period and to not miss any learning.
“The report opens detailing how we have prioritised behaviour and that there is a respectful environment around the academy.
“I am pleased that the inspectors felt that the school was calm and orderly because that is my experience on a day-to-day basis.
“It was also great to see that inspectors commented saying the culture of the school is improving rapidly.
“The next part of the report commented on low-level disruption. It states there is still ‘some’ which is an improvement.
“We will continue to work with students to ensure that learning is the priority and low-level disruption is tackled by staff immediately.
“When the inspectors were at the academy, they spoke to student groups (approximately 10 per year group).
“The outcome from speaking to our students showed that not all younger pupils feel safe and that not all students are reporting issues which was extremely alarming for me.
“When leading the academy, I have tried to ensure student safety is an absolute priority.
“Since receiving the outcome from these student groups, we have put a number of measures in place such as toilets separated in ‘key stages’ and introducing peer mentors in Year 7 which will take effect in the coming weeks.
“We will be checking in with all students in the next few weeks so we know they are confident about who their ‘trusted adult’ is.
“The student’s ‘trusted adult’ must be a person who they feel able to speak to and report anything.
“It was really positive to see from a recent survey that the majority of students felt they were able to speak to any member of staff, not just their ‘trusted adult’.
“The Swan Centre is a very successful part of the academy and this is detailed in the report.
“When taking over at the academy a number of parents and carers expressed how SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) needs are not met.
“The report suggests we have accurately identified the needs which we are now addressing and this will now become more consistent.
“The IEB (Interim Executive Board) continues to hold the academy accountable and has been coming into the school regularly every 15 days.
“The IEB meetings provide robust challenges for all, with leaders and staff having to present data, detail improvement and also for students to talk directly to the board about their experiences. This was seen as a positive throughout the inspection.
“To ensure that we have even more precise targets a new scheme of action was written for the next half-term with very detailed markers about what needs to be achieved.”
Chelle McCann, lead parent governor from the LGC (Local Governing Committee), said: “It is good to see that Ofsted have acknowledged rapid improvement on areas of the March 2022 Ofsted inspection.
“There is a definite shift in the school culture, values and ethos and BACA has started to be a place the children can feel encouraged to do their best as well as becoming a school they can be proud to attend.
“Although there is more to do to ensure improvement in all areas, it’s evident that there has been an immense amount of positive change.
“After a visit to school this week I had the pleasure of meeting the Student Leadership Team.
“They were eager to express how they feel about their school environment, how there is becoming an increasing sense of community and that they highly value and support many of the changes Mr Davies and the wider school staff have put in place.
“They’re also not afraid of challenging ideas and ensure the school feels fair for everyone.
“I look forward to seeing the next steps for the school and how the focus on the quality of teaching will ensure all students have access to what they need for their individual and collective success.”
Mr Davies added: “I would like to thank all students, parents and carers for their support during the inspection.
“The staff and I were grateful for all the positive messages about the changes which have taken place in the academy.
“I will continue to do everything to make this school a success and the best possible place for our students.”
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