Mixed report for Norwich's first academy

Steve DownesInspectors will be closely monitoring Norwich's first academy after reporting problems, including under-achievement, persistent absence and teaching that is at times 'inadequate'.Steve Downes

Inspectors will be closely monitoring Norwich's first academy after reporting problems, including under-achievement, persistent absence and teaching that is at times 'inadequate'.

The findings about Open Academy, in Marryat Road, are published a few days after the Evening News revealed the academy had doubled the proportion of 16-year-olds hitting the target in GCSEs in its first year.

In a monitoring report compiled following a visit on November 4 and 5, inspectors highlighted:

'inconsistent' behaviour management

a need for more work to 'secure the full support of the community'

under-achievement in some subjects, with some key stage four lessons 'failing to capture students' interest' and leaving them 'bored and de-motivated'

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a 'lack of rigour' in assessment, hampering efforts to track the progress of individual students

insufficient action to improve attendance and reduce persistent absence

'inconsistent' marking of students' work

'low expectations' of students by 'many teachers'

'dramatic' variation of standards across subjects.

On a brighter note, the report said the academy had made an 'immediate impact on raising standards', with the proportion of students getting five or more GCSEs including English and maths up from 16pc in 2008 to 32pc in 2009 and the proportion getting five good grades in any subjects up from 35pc to 48pc.

It added that the 'significant improvements' were a 'direct result of better quality teaching to support learning'.

The report also says overall behaviour - rated 'good' - had improved since the academy opened in the buildings of the former Heartsease High in September 2008, which had led to a 'reduction in the number of students excluded'.

The report concluded that Open Academy had made 'satisfactory' progress since opening. But inspectors added: 'The monitoring inspection has raised some concerns about the standard of education provided and the academy's performance will be monitored.'

Paul Cracknell, chairman of governors at Open, said: 'The report results from a snapshot visit when many of the staff - who had been expressly brought in to drive up standards - had only been in their posts for a matter of weeks.

'This academic year is already seeing significant improvement and this has accelerated since the inspection.'

He added: 'We do take these reports seriously, especially the areas for improvement that are highlighted. We view them as an important tool in continuing to improve our performance in the future.

'During this academic year we are focusing on improving the quality of assessment, increasing the number of good and outstanding lessons, raising attendance and further engaging the local community.'

The academy, sponsored by Norwich businessman Graham Dacre and the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James, is currently being led by interim principal Howard Lay, who was praised in the report for making an 'immediate impact'.

He will be succeeded after Easter by Jon Platten, currently head of Alderman Peel High in Wells, rated 'outstanding' in its latest Ofsted report.

Do you have a schools story? Call Steve Downes on 01603 772495 or email steve.downes@archant.co.uk.

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