The head of a Burton academy has hit out after education watchdogs rated it 'inadequate' as inspectors said many pupils 'lacked basic skills.
Kingfisher Academy, in Outwoods Street, was given the lowest possible rating by Ofsted inspectors after they noted that many pupils "lacked basic skills" and would often move to secondary school without the required standards in maths and English.
However, inspectors did say that "whatever their abilities or needs, all pupils felt a sense of belonging and no-one was left out", and that "the principal is steering the school with clear-sighted purpose".
Following the publication of the report, the academy's principal Madelaine Burkett criticised Ofsted claiming the assessment was unfair and she felt the school was not inadequate. She now intends to rise her concerns about the report.
Mrs Burkett and sponsor governor Ben Robinson, the chairman of Burton Albion, both told the Burton Mail they felt that the scope of the assessment was far too narrow and had focused on a few negative points, bypassing the hard work of all at the academy.
One member of staff told inspectors that "the school does the best it can with the resources it has". This was in reference to how staff help pupils who arrive at the academy with little or no understanding of English.
Mrs Burkett felt that too much weight had been put on this issue, which was one of eight reasons why inspectors rated Kingfisher as inadequate, and was in relation to one seven-year-old boy who had only been at the school for just two weeks.
A rating of inadequate is the lowest, with outstanding being the best.
She said 18 languages were spoken at the school, which strives to hold its expansive range of cultural backgrounds at the forefront of everything it does.
In a letter to parents and carers, Mrs Burkett wrote: "As a school, we are very disappointed in the overall grading which has been given to the school, as we firmly believe this is an unfair and untrue description of the current standard of education we provide for your children, and we have raised our concerns regarding the inspection with the highest authorities.
"We know that recent Y6 cohorts have not achieved the Government's floor standards in these tests (KS2 SATs), but feel that, when making this judgement, insufficient account has been taken of the legacy of under achievement of these cohorts, and the current Y6 cohort (the last students at Kingfisher from the pre-academy days), from their time before the school became Kingfisher Academy or the amount of progress all these children have made since.
"We all - staff, parents and pupils - know how far Kingfisher Academy has come along the school improvement journey, and we are all aware that there is still more work to be done.
"Nothing has been highlighted in the report as an area for development which was not already being addressed by the school at the time of the inspection.
"As a school we are confident that with everyone's ongoing commitment and support we will soon achieve what we are striving for.
"I am proud of the progress the school has made so far, and thankful that we have such a hardworking, dedicated staff team and such a supportive and encouraging community of parents who I know, together, will make sure that when the next Ofsted inspection occurs, Kingfisher Academy gets the recognition it deserves."
The Ofsted report said that the academy, which has 170 pupils aged from seven to 11, had "significant variations in the quality of teaching".
Kingfisher was taken over by an academy in October 2014 and is part of the Burton and South Derbyshire Education Trust, inspectors noted that the proportion of pupils from minority ethnic backgrounds and disadvantaged students was higher than the national average.
The report said: "The standards reached by pupils in reading, writing and mathematics at the end of Year 6 are low.
"In mathematics and reading, standards in 2016 and 2017 were well below age-related expectations.
"There are several reasons for this, but the main factor has been slow progress over time due to significant variations in the quality of teaching.
"Pupils have left Kingfisher Academy inadequately prepared for learning at secondary school."
It noted that the way in which staff helped pupils with complex needs or emotional, social or behavioural difficulties was a key strength.
Another strength was the school’s commitment to Unicef’s Rights Respecting programme which helped stress the importance of equality, dignity and respect through everything the pupils do.
Mrs Burkett told the Burton Mail that only five of the 23 staff who were there when the school became an academy in 2014 are still there, after a concerted overhaul.
She also said there was a major policy and curriculum change, which she says has pushed the pupils’ performance forward.
When she took up the role, she said that attendance and exclusions were also a huge issue, with six exclusions in 2014, however last year that figure dropped to zero.
She said that attendance was still a major issue, with pupils often missing school in term-time to visit family living abroad.
"I think parents do need to take more responsibility for their pupils' attendance, we recognise the issue and the reasons why parents are taking their children out of school but we must show them what their children could be achieving if they were here all the time."
In her letter to parents she wrote: "As parents of Kingfisher Academy pupils, you can help us be successful by making sure your children are in school every day and always on time so that they are able to fully engage in all the learning opportunities provided by the school."
An Ofsted spokesman said that the watchdog does not comment on individual inspection reports.
What is Ofsted?
Ofsted is the education watchdog, its inspectors visit schools, colleges, universities and nurseries throughout the UK and every four years provide an assessment on each establishment.
It may rate an education provider outstanding, good, requires improvement or inadequate.
An inadequate rating sees the provider placed in special measures.
Inspectors then revisit the provider every six months and set strict improvement targets and often introduce hiring freezes.
If these improvements are not sufficiently met then Ofsted may move to close the school.
The full report on Kingfisher Academy
Summary of key findings for parents and pupils:
This is an inadequate school
Since the school opened as an academy, standards in reading and mathematics at the end of Year 6 have remained well below age-related expectations.
While the progress made by current pupils is improving, a legacy of underachievement means that many upper key stage 2 pupils are still behind in their learning and work.
In mathematics, many pupils lack basic skills, which hinders their progress and readiness for secondary school.
The increasing proportion of pupils who do not speak English do not get enough support to help them understand what is happening in lessons.
The current quality of teaching presents a mixed picture. In some classes, work does not get the best from pupils and they lose interest.
Those responsible for governance were slow to provide suitable support when the new academy opened. Governance is now strengthening. However, until recently, governors lacked an informed understanding of the school’s performance.
Checks on how well pupils are doing are better than they used to be, but there is still room for improvement.
Despite the school’s best efforts, some parents do not get their children to school regularly enough or on time.
The school has the following strengths
The principal has brought order to the school by introducing sensible routines and consistent expectations that have raised everyone’s aspirations. She exercises wise judgement and has established a stable staff team that shows promise.
The school’s middle leaders are increasingly effective in their roles. They are well informed about the school’s performance and offer challenge and support to their colleagues.
Pupils understand the school’s rules. Their conduct around the school is usually calm and orderly.
The procedures for keeping pupils safe and attending to pastoral matters work very well.
The progress now being made in Years 3 and 4 presents a positive picture.
Pupils who have complex needs receive effective support to help them cope with school life.
In accordance with section 44(2) of the Education Act 2005, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector is of the opinion that this school requires significant improvement, because it is performing significantly less well than it might in all the circumstances reasonably be expected to perform.
What does the school need to do to improve further?
- Improve teaching in order to improve pupils’ progress in English and mathematics so that they are adequately prepared for secondary school by making sure that:
Urgent action is taken to support pupils who lack basic mathematical skills and knowledge
Teachers’ questions and explanations are pitched at a level that pupils can understand, so they stay interested in learning and do their best
Pupils who do not speak English who arrive from overseas get timely and effective support so they can make the most of lessons
Checks on how well pupils are doing are refined in order to improve the accuracy of assessment
The most able pupils are suitably challenged in all classes.
- Strengthen the work of leadership and management by making sure that:
Governors maintain an informed and accurate understanding of the current challenges faced by the school so they can plan for sustainable school improvement
There are sufficient resources and staff to support pupils who do not speak English.
- Continue to improve aspects of behaviour by:
Making sure that staff get the necessary support to help them manage the classroom behaviour of a few pupils who find it hard to settle to their tasks
Continuing to work with parents and families to improve levels of attendance and punctuality.