Saturday, June 8, 2013
A Norwich school has been rated outstanding – just four years after being in special measures.
Today’s Ofsted report marks a remarkable turnaround for a school which was twice forced into special measures in the 2000s.
What was then known as Costessey High School saw the number of students gaining at least five GCSEs at grade C or above, including English and maths, reach a low of just 23pc in 2006.
That came after the loss of almost half the school’s teaching staff in a crisis following the jailing of former deputy headteacher Stephen Brenchley for sexual offences, and the school was placed in special measures from 2007 to 2009.
Results improved to 41pc of students achieving five good GCSEs in 2009, but slipped back to 38pc the following year.
The school reopened as the Ormiston Victory Academy in 2010, and results jumped to 64pc in 2011 and 68pc in 2012, and Ofsted said “a considerable further rise is expected in 2013”.
In 2007, Ofsted wrote: “Students’ personal development and well-being are inadequate. Too many students are regularly absent from school and a small but significant minority of students disrupt lessons.”
This week, Ofsted wrote: “Students’ highly positive attitudes to learning contribute significantly to their outstanding achievement. There is very little disruption in lessons or misbehaviour around the academy.”
In 2007, the inspectors said: “Too many students make inadequate progress in lessons, mainly due to some ineffective teaching and the lack of a robust system to track how well students are achieving over time.”
This week, they said: “Students make rapid progress in a wide range of subjects, so that attainment is well above average by the end of Year 11. Students in all year groups are making excellent progress in the key subjects of English and mathematics.”
Staff and students at the Ormiston Victory Academy in Costessey are celebrating a glowing Ofsted report which declared that “achievement is outstanding because every student matters”.
The academy opened in September 2010 and replaced Costessey High School, which had twice been put in special measures.
Ofsted inspectors said standards have risen steeply, with the proportion of students gaining at least five good GCSEs, including English and maths, rising from 38pc in 2010 to 68pc last year.
They wrote: “The academy’s relentless focus on improving teaching has underpinned its rapid improvement and the outstanding achievement of its students. Teachers know that only good or outstanding teaching is acceptable and they work extremely hard to maintain this standard.”
Principal Rachel de Souza credited an immediate emphasis on behaviour, an “absolute attention to detail” and getting students involved, including training some to take part in lesson observation, with the transformation.
She said: “The one thing I was struck by when I got to know the school was how bright the students are. I have worked in inner London and I think the kids in Norfolk have huge potential and very huge aspiration. Some people say otherwise, but I think otherwise. I think they really want to achieve.”
The report is a bright spot in Norfolk’s troubled education system, which will next week see inspectors descend on County Hall after Ofsted’s regional director identified an “urgent need” for the council to better support Norfolk schools to bring about sustained improvement.
Mrs de Souza added: “I really believe Norfolk has great teachers and has the potential for great senior teachers. The school had been in special measures twice and they were dispirited. In my first meeting I promised that we were going to be outstanding in three years, and turn it around.
“I promoted the staff that were already there and that really won hearts and minds. It’s been a team effort and they have been part of it. It’s not been done to them.
“I believe we can do this across Norfolk. The skills are already there.”
Mrs de Souza is chief executive of the Inspiration Trust, which includes Larkman Primary School in Norwich and the new Sir Isaac Newton Sixth Form Free School, due to open in Norwich this year, and steps down as principal of the Victory Academy at the end of term.
She will be succeeded by Naomi Palmer, currently vice principal at Ormiston’s Venture Academy in Gorleston.