Ofsted inspectors slam Houghton Regis School

'Pupils do not receive a good standard of education'

By Lynn Hughes
Wednesday, 1st December 2021, 10:20 am
Updated Wednesday, 1st December 2021, 10:22 am
Thomas Whitehead Academy
Thomas Whitehead Academy

A Houghton Regis school has been told it should not recruit any newly qualified teachers after receiving a damning Ofsted report.

Thomas Whitehead Church of England Academy was judged to be inadequate in the quality of its education and leadership, and told it requires improvement in behaviour and attitude and the personal development of its pupils.

After visiting the school on Angels Lane, in September, inspectors said: "Pupils do not receive a good standard of education. The curriculum is poorly planned. Leaders do not have high enough expectations of what pupils can achieve. Pupils do not achieve well. Pupils do not learn to read well enough, including children in early years. This makes it difficult for them to learn successfully in other subjects.

"In almost all subjects, pupils are behind where they need to be for their age. The curriculum does not help them to catch up quickly.

"Leaders and teachers do not understand how to plan and deliver an effective curriculum. In almost all subjects, including English and mathematics, the curriculum is poorly organised and not well thought through. Plans do not show what pupils should learn and in what order so that pupils build their knowledge and understanding over time. Teachers are not given the appropriate training and support to develop their own subject knowledge so that they understand what they must teach and when. Pupils’ learning is disjointed because teaching is not matched to their needs. For example, in geography, older pupils do not know the capital cities and countries that make up the United Kingdom. In mathematics, pupils do not have enough opportunities to practise facts and methods so that they deepen their learning."

The report said while behaviour is improving in the school, a lack of structure and challenge means pupils become restless and stop learning in the classroom. It criticised the reading curriculum as not planned or well thought out, and there was a lack of learning in history, geography and science.

"This makes it difficult for them to make a good start in their education and to be ready for secondary school," said inspectors.

"The early years curriculum lacks ambition. There is no planned approach as to how staff will develop children’s knowledge, skills and understanding. This means that the gaps in children’s knowledge appear at the very start of their education.

"In the few subjects that are better planned and taught, such as music and physical education, pupils listen, concentrate well and learn more successfully. Leaders provide opportunities to support pupils’ personal and social development".

Governors and the St Albans Multi Academy trust which oversees the school were also criticised. "They know that outcomes have been too low. However, they are not aware of the full extent of the weaknesses in the curriculum. They have not made sure that leaders work effectively with staff so that all aspects of the curriculum are well planned and taught.

"Trustees, trust directors and governors do not have a secure understanding of the school’s weaknesses. They know that outcomes have not been good enough, but are not aware that the curriculum is underdeveloped and not meeting the needs of pupils, including those with SEND. The trust must make sure that the newly formed local governing body holds leaders to account rigorously for how weaknesses in the quality of education are being addressed quickly and effectively".

A spokesman for the St Albans Trust said: "As a Trust dedicated to providing the best education for its pupils, the Diocese of St Albans Multi Academy Trust was deeply disappointed with the outcome of the OfSTED inspection at Thomas Whitehead CE Academy which did not meet the high expectations the Trust models.

"We have taken immediate steps to address the issues raised and have developed a clear and rigorous action plan which will enable the Academy to make the improvements in provision that are needed. Parents have been invited to discuss the action plan and already note the improvements being made at the school."