Hartsdown Academy staff and students are celebrating after receiving a Good grading from education watchdog Ofsted.
Each of the areas that Ofsted assess on their inspection visits – quality of education, behaviour and attitudes, personal development, leadership and management and Sixth Form – were graded as Good, reflecting work that has taken place since its last grading of Requires Improvement in 2018.
Inspectors visited the school in December and noted the improvements that have been made.
In the report they say: “Staff and pupils agree that Hartsdown has improved greatly. One parent said: ‘My daughter has grown in confidence, her level of learning has risen, the support from her teachers is brilliant.’ Pupils are proud to belong to the school community. They know that staff want them to aim high, so that they leave with the qualifications and experiences they need to be successful.”
Inspectors said leaders, including head teacher Matt Tate who took the reins in 2016, have focused on improving the right areas.
They say: “The headteacher has a clear and ambitious vision for the school. Leaders, with the support of the multi-academy trust, have focused on improving the right things. Staff feel well supported. Early career teachers say how much they value the guidance they have received.”
Inspectors say the personal development programme is “comprehensive”, ensuring that “pupils learn about issues that are important for young people growing up in the local community”. The careers programme that Hartsdown provides has been recognised “ for helping to raise pupils’ aspirations” which “are reflected in the places in further education, employment or training that students are securing.”
They add that the school as a “warm and welcoming place” where “pupils enjoy working together and relationships between pupil and staff are very strong.”
Inspectors said the school’s curriculum at all key stages, was “carefully considered”, and “subjects are well designed…pupils can talk clearly about what they are learning and can remember things they have learned in the past”. Teachers were praised as “very skilled at checking how well pupils have grasped key ideas.”
Inspectors noted the school’s focus on literacy, saying: “Pupils know the importance of focusing on reading” and that their “teachers encourage pupils to read regularly and often”. Hartsdown’s SEN department was praised as being “ambitious for pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities” and that staff at Hartsdown “carefully identify pupils’ needs and guide them onto the right curriculum pathway to help them learn best.”
Pupils behaviour and attitudes and the sixth form provision also received praise.
The Ofsted report said areas for improvement include the need for more students to study modern foreign languages at GCSE so there is more scope to study at EBacc and that the curriculum needs to be implemented consistently with teaching adapted accordingly.
Hartsdown is a member of Coastal Academies Trust along with King Ethelbert School, Cliftonville Primary School and Dane Court Grammar School.
Kate Greig, CEO of Coastal Academies Trust, said: “I am absolutely thrilled for the school and the community. Hartsdown has gone from strength to strength over the last four years and each time I visit the school I see how much it has improved.
“Matt Tate and his staff have shown the determination, skill, integrity and tenacity needed to turn a school around and it is wonderful that Ofsted has recognised this.
“What is particularly pleasing is the way the students are celebrated in the report with the inspection team seeing how positive, engaged and happy the youngsters are at the school. The relationships between staff and students are excellent and the school has made sure the curriculum it offers is ambitious and focused so that each student can reach their potential.
“I am enormously proud of Matt and the community of Hartsdown. It is a brilliant school to visit and an exciting place to be – they all deserve this outcome and I know they will use it to drive the school on even further.”
Mr Tate said: “The outcome of this inspection is a cause for great celebration. It is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our staff and students and an accurate reflection on how far the school has moved forward in these last few years.
“We are immensely proud of our school and its students, and this recognition from Ofsted that we are a Good school where students thrive has only served to cement our pride and galvanize the school community towards even greater achievements and ambitions in the future.”