Walney School out of special measures - but requires 'significant improvement'
A FURNESS school community says it has reached a "milestone" by no longer requiring special measures and moving forward - but there is "no complacency" with its ongoing journey for "long lasting improvement".
Ofsted has judged Walney School to require "significant improvement" in the latest report.
The island secondary was placed in special measures in January 2014 when inspectors deemed those then responsible for leading, managing and governing the school were "not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvement". Now the Sandy Gap Lane school has a new senior leadership team, new governors and is part of the The Queen Katherine School Multi Academy Trust. Ofsted says: "Leaders and governors have the capacity to go on improving the school, as they have made improvements in teaching, leadership, attendance and behaviour."
The education watchdog says headteacher John Richardson, appointed in January 2014, provides "very strong leadership"and "has tackled the school's weakness tirelessly and rigorously." Inspectors say the head "inherited a legacy of poor practice," "poor leadership," "weak teaching" and "ineffective governance had a negative impact on pupils' achievement." The report says leaders have "still not fully eradicated the effects of previous poor provision".
The "overall effectiveness" of the school is graded "inadequate" based on the same judgement for pupils outcomes, with the 2015 and 2016 GCSE results being "inadequate" and outcomes being "stubbornly low for too long".
Ofsted says: "Leaders say that a key factor in the school’s performance in 2015 and 2016 was the weakness in staffing. Many teachers and leaders have left the school in the last two years. Other factors produced serious staffing instability, for example in science, where the school needed to call on temporary teachers."
Inspectors noted that the school sought "talented colleagues" and "refused to accept second best" and that "staffing this year is much more stable". Walney school itself says staffing has been a huge challenge, but the team is now place.
Ofsted said: "The achievement of pupils is steadily improving, albeit too slowly. There is no complacency among leaders and governors. All accept the the school's performance has not been good enough and must improve. They are determined that it will do so."
GCSE outcomes for students haven't yet improved at a pace fast enough for them to compare favourably with other schools nationally.
The report says the school predicts the Year 11 cohort will "achieve a little better" than the 2016 group, while Year 10 is a "little more encouraging" and it is in Key Stage Three (Years Seven to Nine) where the school can point to "most progress", "Key stage Three work confirms that pupil in the lower school are making faster progress."
Ofsted saw that leaders in maths and English are making a difference to teaching. In maths the new lead is "setting high expectations and has demanded higher levels of challenge in lessons.
Inspectors noted the hard work on improving attendance which is now close to the national average and safeguarding is strong.
Ofsted said the school is "calm" with pupils "willing to learn", but there were "low-level disruptions".
In 2016 there were more students then before moved onto Level Three courses.
The report says there is strong and significant support from governors and the academy trust.
Mr Richardson said the significant improvement needed "is being seen day by day" and that it is about embedding a depth of sustainable change and having long lasting improvement. He said this is first step in the next step to this being a good school.
Mr Richardson said: "This inspection report represents another significant milestone in the improvement journey of Walney School.
"It is encouraging that during this inspection Mr Hurrah and his colleagues have recognised the multitude of improvements that continue to occur in the school and judged that these improvements can be sustained moving forward by the new leadership team, the new governing body and the new trust.
"This is no longer a school requiring special measures. Yes it does require significant improvement, but we all agreed with that and we continue to deliver that significant improvement.
"Walney is a school that continues to focus every day on overcoming what inspectors recognised as a legacy of poor performance in the school.
"As is reported by Ofsted, this required daily concerted and robust actions is testament to the hard work of all staff that the quality of teaching that was previously graded inadequate is no longer so and the judgement regarding the leadership and management of the school has also moved out of an inadequate grading."
Thanking the school team and community Mr Richardson said: "I would like to be clear that this hard work would be futile without the commitment of staff, students and parents to making our school the best it can be and one we are truly proud of.
"Most importantly, it is reported that together we are all: 'Improving the school’s culture of learning'.
"The team also recognised that these improvement had less impact on the outcomes for students who have left the school over the last two years, give that much of their school life occurred before these changes began to happen. We regret that we could not impact even more rapidly on these cohorts but are pleased that the Ofsted report recognises that those students currently within school, especially those most recently joined, are going to enjoy a much more fruitful five years.
"Our current Year 11 students remain a key priority for us and we strive daily to improve their potential GCSE outcomes."
He said now is Walney School's time. Improvements have been seen through the cohorts. Mr Richardson said Years Seven to Nine do not have the "drag factor of the legacy of the poor progress" that unfortunately older student have endured.
Ofsted will be back for an interim visit in three to six months, and a full inspection will be in around eighteen months.
Mr Richardson said he has every confidence that the significant improvement the school has been challenged to go on delivering will continue and it will be a good school by the next full inspection.
Stephen Wilkinson, chief executive officer of The Queen Katherine School Multi Academy Trust said: “I am delighted that after a relatively short period of time in The Queen Katherine School Multi Academy Trust that the governors, leadership, teachers, students and parents have managed to move Walney School out of special measures.
This is a great achievement that has required an enormous amount of hard work and determination. Students are now receiving a much higher quality of education. I send my congratulations to everyone at Walney School.”
Richard Moore, chair of board of The Queen Katherine School Multi Academy Trust said: “It is with great pleasure to see that Ofsted have acknowledged the support given by our Multi Academy Trust in support of the leadership and also the governance of the school.
We look forward to working with the school in its journey of improvement.”