The trust trying to turn round Stamford’s only state school has made good progress so far, according to Ofsted inspectors.
Stamford Welland Academy opened in place of Stamford Queen Eleanor School in September.
In charge is the Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust, or Cmat. The trust originally applied to open a new school under the Government’s free school scheme. But ministers instead asked it to take over Queen Eleanor.
The school was essentially closed and reopened with a fresh start in September. And last month, a little over 60 days since Cmat officially took charge, Ofsted inspectors paid their first visit to Stamford Welland.
The inspection report, published this week, gave the same requires improvement grade handed to Queen Eleanor in March 2013. The grade is based in part on the poor 2014 GCSE results, attained under the leadership of the Centre for British Teaching Education Trust. Only 35 per cent of pupils achieved five A* to C grades including English and maths; well below Government standards.
But inspectors were quick to praise Cmat, new principal Anthony Partington and the new governing body for the changes put in place since they took over.
We know what we need to do in order to ensure that next time the school is inspected, or even before, it is a good or outstanding school.Principal Anthony Partington
Among the strengths listed in the report were:
- The strong leadership from the new principal, supported by the academy trust, has already had a clear impact on improving behaviour, the monitoring of student progress, teaching and raising the expectations of students and staff.
- The new governing body have a wide range of knowledge and experience of school governance and use it to effectively monitor the work of the academy.
- Teaching is consistently strong in English and as a result attainment is at least average and often above average.
Mr Partington said he would have preferred to have been given more time to implement changes before Ofsted paid their first visit. But he was happy the progress so far had been recognised.
“It would have been nice to have had a set of results behind us,” he said.
“It really is important that we see that achievement moving on. We were aware that one of the issues was that achievement was not where it should be.”
Cmat has brought in a number of changes to the old Queen Eleanor system since Stamford Welland opened. Chief among those is the new house system, which aims to give pupils a sense of identity and encourage them to feel part of the school community.
“The system is not just pastoral support,” said Mr Partington. “It’s all focused on ensuring that all the need of the children are met so they achieve in all areas.”
The houses bring subject groups and teachers together. Austen house, for example, combines English, the humanities and drama. Each house has an assistant principal and senior tutor, and is linked to members of the governing body. Families are given direct contact with the house offices.
Inter-house competition involves sport, but also in categories such as pupil lateness.
Mr Partington said: “Pupils feel now they are letting their side down if they are late. High expectation is standard.”
Cmat is also introducing the curriculum originally proposed as part of the free school bid. According to the principal it is designed to be “academically rigorous”, and to build on the “good work that happens in Stamford’s primary schools”.
“The main focus is on English and maths,” said Mr Partington. “But in some areas we have streamlined the curriculum because we want to deepen and broaden what children do.
“We are also making things compulsory which are currently optional, such as triple science.”
And the school has asked pupils and the wider community to help come up with a new uniform. The final design will be unveiled at a public consultation meeting at the school at 6pm on Monday. Anyone is welcome to find out more about the school and hear feedback on the Ofsted report.
Inspectors did come up with a number of areas for improvement, including the quality of teaching, attainment and the effectiveness of middle leadership. But Mr Partington is confident those targets will be met.
“It’s almost a baseline assessment,” he said. “It’s kind of like a line in the sand.
“We know what we need to do in order to ensure that next time the school is inspected, or even before, it is a good or outstanding school.”
New chairman of governors Roger Moore promised the school would be “at least good, if not better” after its next inspection.
He added: “I don’t think the inspectors told us anything we didn’t know. We are aware of subjects and departments where performance can improve.
“We have restructured the staff and quality assurance is in place to ensure that happens.”