Improving academy 'playing the long game'

The Sir Robert Woodard Academy
The Sir Robert Woodard Academy

A principal has predicted his school will go from “strength to strength” despite being rated 'requires improvement' by Ofsted for the third time.

The Sir Robert Woodard Academy, in Sompting, underwent a two-day inspection at the end of January – its first since 2015.

In their report, the team of four inspectors recognised the changes made by Kieran Scanlon since his appointment in September, saying they had led to significant improvements in some areas.

Mr Scanlon said: “There is a great energy at the academy. Our students enjoy coming here and benefit from the fact that we are a medium sized school so they are truly known and nurtured.

“We have everything in place to ensure that over the coming years, we will go from strength to strength.”

The academy was rated 'requires improvement' in four of the five key areas, with the personal development, behaviour and welfare of the students rated 'good'.

The report acknowledged the “challenging times” faced by the academy, including its financial considerations and an “insufficient focus” on teaching and learning before Mr Scanlon's arrival.

It added: “Following his appointment in September 2017, the principal has wasted no time in initiating a restructure of leadership at all levels. A new senior leadership team has been formed, with each member having clear lines of responsibility linked to the academy improvement plan.

“Since the beginning of this academic year, the team has introduced a number of well-judged initiatives to improve key aspects of the school’s work. These changes have significantly improved some areas, such as attendance, this year. However, in other areas it is too soon to see an impact.”

There was praise in the report for the behaviour of the students and for the variety of extra-curricular clubs and activities on offer. Staff morale was seen to be high.

The majority of parents who responded to Ofsted's Parent View questionnaire said their children were safe, happy and well looked after at Sir Robert Woodard. It was a show of faith the inspectors described as “well placed” as the academy offered “a very nurturing and inclusive community”.

Responding to the list of areas requiring further improvement, Mr Scanlon said he and his team would not be taking any shortcuts, adding: “I feel the report recognises that we are playing the long game.”

The list included the need for teachers to have “the highest expectations of all pupils”, for subject leaders to “monitor the work of their teams closely and tackle weaknesses in teaching, learning and assessment promptly and effectively” and for an external review of governance and the school’s use of the pupil premium.

Mr Scanlon said: “It is clear from the detail of the report that going forward, the school has significant strengths and that we have the team to take the school to good and beyond.”

He added: “It is a team effort and we are dedicated to ensuring that every child that comes through our door has an fantastic experience at the school and leaves prepared to go to university or enter the profession of their choice.”