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Friday, 01 August 2014

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Inspectors back plans to improve failing Carlisle academy

Plans to improve one of Carlisle’s failing Richard Rose academies have been given an early seal of approval by government inspectors.

Des Bird photo
Des Bird, Morton Academy head

Inspectors have been back to the Richard Rose Morton Academy to check up on what changes are being made to transform the school.

Ofsted inspectors judged the standard of the education at the Wigton Road school to be inadequate last November, placing the academy in special measures.

Officials returned earlier this month to carry out their first formal monitoring visit since the restrictions were imposed. Their findings were published yesterday.

Inspector Robert Pritchard has concluded that the school’s formal improvement plan and statement for action are ‘fit for purpose’ and that senior leaders have a ‘clear focus’ to improve standards.

He has also lifted a restriction banning the school from taking on inexperienced teachers. Mr Pritchard says that the academy may now recruit newly qualified teachers, but only after consultation with a leading inspector.

The monitoring visit was carried out just weeks after the arrival of new headteacher Des Bird.

Mr Pritchard noted: “The executive headteacher, headteacher and leadership team have a clear understanding of what went wrong at the academy and have a plan to bring about the necessary improvement. The plans that have been produced are clearly focused on the areas identified in the last inspection and have enough detail to ensure that members of staff can be held accountable for the progress against the success criteria.

“A lot has already been put in place, with the quality of teaching taking priority. However, the headteacher is aware that teaching across the academy needs to improve further.”

He also adds that senior leaders have a ‘clear overview’ of the progress pupils are now making. There is also an arrangement with another academy to share the marking and moderation of work to help ensure teacher assessments are accurate.

School leaders see good attendance as critical to securing improvements, but attendance for 14-16 year olds must improve further, Mr Pritchard says.

He also says the improvement board overseeing changes at the Morton and Central academies has a ‘clear picture’ of what is happening at Morton.

Retired solicitor Nigel Robson, the board chairman, is ‘determined to drive improvement’, inspector Mr Pritchard has recorded.

Derek Davies, executive head of the Morton and Central Academies in Carlisle, said: “The visit was very encouraging and the inspectors were pleased with the direction that the school is heading in and the initiatives that are now underway for addressing historic under-performance.

“The inspection was a very positive experience for the academy and we are all encouraged by the inspector’s acknowledgement of the drive to improvement that is underway. This is, however, the first of regular inspections such as this and our aim must be to continue relentlessly securing permanent improvement.”

He added that the inspectors praised the appointment of Des Bird as headteacher and his plans for the academy, the drive to improve teaching and learning across all year groups; the benefits coming from the school improvement board to oversee progress; and the overall improvement strategy.

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