Dunstable academy slips from 'Good' to 'Requires improvement' Ofsted rating
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Ofsted inspectors visited The Vale Academy, which provides education to children from age two to 11, in May.
It was the first full inspection since 2014 when the school – part of The Shared Learning Trust - received an overall rating of good which was upheld after a ‘short inspection’ in 2017. However, the latest Ofsted report, published on Friday, handed it a ‘requires improvement’ rating.
Areas listed for improvement included the quality of education and early years provision in connection with concerns over early years’ reading, provision for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), and the implementation of a newly revised curriculum across the school.
The report says while a new phonics programme is helping pupils to become confident readers, those struggling need more support.
It further reports that while activities are adapted well to accommodate SEND pupils along with additional support, sometimes the work is not closely matched enough to meet their needs.
The inspectors acknowledge that leaders and academy trustees have recently updated the curriculum to match their aspirations for pupils, but teachers are still ‘getting to grips with the content’ particularly within foundation subjects, meaning the facts delivered to pupils are not ‘sufficiently detailed’.
However, there was a number of positive comments in the report with three areas, including behaviour and attitudes, personal development and leadership and management, graded ‘good’.
The report describes pupils as cared for, keen to learn and explains they like to earn ‘motivator points’ for their hard work. They also ‘relish’ their ‘special responsibilities’ as mental health, sports and play leaders ,and opportunities take part in sports events, festivals and trips.
It also highlights pupils’ ability to get on and reports bullying is rare with a ‘safeguarding and anti-bullying ambassador’ in each class.
Safeguarding was among highly praised areas, acknowledging pupils’ knowledge of online safety, as well as gangs and criminal exploitation. It explains visits from local police help them know how to stay safe outside of school and that staff and trustees all have up to date safeguarding training.
Inspectors also surmise pupils are prepared well for adulthood – with an understanding of free speech, discrimination, healthy relationships and of being respectful of others’ beliefs.
The Vale Academy principal Tanya Knight said: "We were disappointed with the overall outcome of our recent inspection; however, we have already addressed a number of the issues identified by the inspection, and we will continue with our robust plan to make all the necessary improvements as swiftly as possible. We are communicating regularly with parents on our progress, and we look forward to welcoming the inspectors back as soon as possible.
"We were pleased with the many positive comments in the report and the fact that many of our areas continue to be graded as 'Good' – pupils enjoy coming to this welcoming school, they like their teachers and know they are cared for.
"There is much to celebrate at our school, and parents can continue to put their trust in us to deliver the high-quality education that their children deserve."