Ofsted inspectors have graded the Royal Harbour Academy in Ramsgate as ‘Inadequate’ – but school bosses say the verdict does not reflect improvements or the record GCSE results this year.
The academy, based on two sites at Newlands Lane and Stirling Way, was visited by six education inspectors in June and by two inspectors in July to gather more evidence, particularly about the sixth form.
The overall grading of inadequate is coupled with a verdict of ‘serious weaknesses’ which means the school is not in special measures but will be monitored with another visit in 5 weeks’ time and two more over an 18 month period.
The report is the first for the school since the merger of Ellington and Hereson with Marlowe Academy in September 2015. Before its closure Marlowe Academy had been in special measures. The last full Ofsted of Ellington and Hereson, in 2012, had resulted in a Good grading.
The new report grades leadership and management and personal development, behaviour and welfare as Requires Improvement and teaching, learning and assessment and outcomes for pupils as Inadequate. The 16-19 programme – sixth form – was rated as Good. The overall grading is Inadequate.
Inspectors said teaching in Years 7-11 has been ‘weak’ and attendance remains below average. They also say some pupils do not ‘behave well enough in lessons’ although note behaviour is ‘improving overall.’
However, they also acknowledged that work with the Coastal Academies Trust – the umbrella for several isle schools including King Ethelbert, Hartsdown and Dane Court – is resulting in improvements and that teaching and achievement in the sixth form is ‘strong.’
The report says a key finding is low attainment in GCSEs but head teacher Simon Pullen and Paul Luxmoore, chief exec of the Coastal Academies Trust, say this year’s results were the best in the history of the former Marlowe Academy.
Results picked up by students in August – after the inspection had taken place – showed a huge improvement. Last year students at RHA struggled with 12% achieving English and Maths combined passes at Level 4 or above. This year that pass rate rose to 30.4%.
Mr Pullen said: “These were the best set of results ever for the Marlowe site. It takes time to make these sorts of changes but teaching and learning is improving and produced these significant improvements in our results.”
The report highlights instability in staffing as having had an ‘adverse impact’ on learning for students, including those with disabilities or special educational needs.
The report says: “Frequent changes in staffing across a number of subjects, including mathematics and science, have adversely affected pupils’ learning, particularly in key stage 3. Some of these pupils told inspectors that they were unsure of what they were learning.”
Mr Pullen said a restructure has been carried out, as reported in The Isle of Thanet News in May, and the current ‘slimmed down’ team includes five new teachers who have started this term.
He said: “The inspection grading is partly to do with the timing, if they came in now I have no doubt the result would be different.
“But the inspection was carried out at a time of flux, we were restructuring. We now have a strong team of teachers in place which is much more stable. Our learning and teaching is moving forward. We are working closely with CAT and this is having a big impact.”
Support from Coastal Academies Trust
The report says: “Leaders have not secured an adequate quality of education for pupils since the school opened, “ but adds: “There are signs that pupils’ progress is beginning to accelerate. Leaders actions to raise the quality of teaching are starting to make a difference.” The inspectors say CAT ‘has provided invaluable and substantial support.’
CAT was granted an academy order to bring the school into its trust but funding issues have meant that a full agreement has not yet been reached. The academy is, however, an associate member and has been receiving support, particularly from King Ethelbert’s whose deputy head is working on the site part-time this term.
Mr Luxmoore said: “CAT remains supportive and we think the merger and bringing RHA into the trust has been vindicated by the recent GCSE results. We know that results will continue to improve unless Government changes the goalposts again and we know teaching will continue to improve.
“The Marlowe has had a series of head teachers come, fail and go but we are here to stay. Newington needs confidence in the education provided for them and I don’t think Ofsted is helping the process although the inspection team seemed genuinely upset at the 4 (Inadequate) grading and actually said lots of nice things about the school in the report.
“I think there is also greater confidence in the school, this year there in an intake of around 180 Year 7s compared to when the Marlowe closed and had just 28 pupils on its Year 7 roll.
“I do not think the ‘serious weaknesses’ will apply for long. There will be another full inspection, in around 18 months, and I believe the school will be taken out of that.”
Safeguarding was seen as effective and inspectors also noted ‘most pupils are confident and generally treat others with kindness and dignity,” also they said they also saw examples of ‘inappropriate behaviour.’
Good grading for sixth form
The sixth form was praised in the report. Inspectors said: “Teachers and leaders are highly ambitious for students in the small but growing sixth form. Students typically make good progress on vocational courses but particularly strong progress in their academic studies. All the requirements of the 16 to 19 programmes are met.”
Improvements needed and measures taken
Ofsted says the school now needs to raise the standard of teaching and ‘eliminate low-level disruption’; ensure attendance improves and make sure governors hold the academy to account. It advises external reviews of how the school uses premium pupil funding and of how governance should be carried out.
The school has several measures in place to improve, including changes to the way Year 7 and Year 8 students are taught with a reduction in the number of teachers they receive lessons from, drafting in specialist staff, holding additional study sessions and working with local primary schools such as Cliftonville Primary.
The report is due to be published on the Ofsted website within the next few days. Parents have already received letters to notify them of the findings.