Ofsted: Ardley Hill Academy in Dunstable is rated 'requires improvement'

A Dunstable primary school needs to work on the quality of the education it provides, Ofsted inspectors have found.

By Lynn Hughes
Tuesday, 24th May 2022, 10:05 am

Ardley Hill Academy, on Lowther Road has been judged as ‘requires improvement’ after its latest inspection.

But the school says the report also highlights improvements made since its previous inspection, and acknowledges its positive points.

And it says it is already working to address the shortcomings.

Ardley Hill Academy - Google Maps

Inspector Sharon Waldron found the delivery of the curriculum at the school was inconsistent. She said: “This is because there remain areas that are not as well thought through about what pupils learn and when. This results in pupils not achieving as well as they could throughout the curriculum”.

She also found that subject leadership is not consistently effective across all the subjects. “In subjects where the curriculum is working well, leaders have a secure subject knowledge and provide effective support and training,” she said.

“However, some subjects are at earlier stages of development. The curriculum is less thought through in these aspects of the curriculum. Leaders have not fully considered what pupils need to know and remember from early years to Year 6. As a result, in these areas of the curriculum, pupils are not well prepared for the next stages of their learning.

"The reading curriculum has been considered by leaders, but there is more work to do. The reading curriculum is not well thought through to ensure that pupils build on their early reading to become fluent readers. Teachers’ subject knowledge about how pupils learn to read is not strong enough. Combined, these aspects result in pupils having gaps in their reading skills. This includes those pupils who struggle with reading. Pupils currently do not make fast enough progress to become fluent and confident readers.”

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Leadership of the school was also criticised as inspectors found some areas of teaching did not receive the scrutiny needed to help teachers and pupils improve.

“While leaders check what is happening throughout the school, this is not rigorous enough to provide an accurate oversight of the quality of education and how what they intend is delivered well. Leaders do not have effective systems in place to check that their intended curriculum is being delivered as they would expect. Consequently, the focused areas to improve are not identified and acted on effectively", said Ms Waldron.

“Governors carry out checks on leaders’ work and the information leaders share with them. However, they do not ask sufficiently probing questions to enable them to effectively hold leaders to account. This limits how well governors carry out their role and their effectiveness in securing school improvement,” says the report.

The behaviour of pupils was praised by inspectors. Ms Waldron said: “Pupils feel valued and safe.

“Relationships between pupils and adults are respectful and positive. Pupils follow the rules and are learning to resolve any disagreements between themselves. Pupils say that bullying is rare. If it happens, pupils feel well supported to resolve any incidents.

“Most pupils listen well and enjoy their learning. Pupils enjoy the broad range of clubs that are on offer, which are well attended.

“Pupils also talk positively about the number of ways that they can take on additional responsibilities. For example, they can be eco-warriors or sports leaders, or they can help out at open evenings.

“Pupils are welcoming and friendly to all, irrespective of any differences they may have.”

To improve, Ms Waldron said leaders and governors need to make sure that their monitoring of the curriculum identifies improvements more effectively and that those actions taken to address weaknesses are timely.

Steve Fox, Headteacher at Ardley Hill Academy, said: “There are many positives in the Ofsted report that highlight the improvement made since the previous inspection in 2018.

“We are pleased the report acknowledges that our pupils feel valued and safe when attending school and that relationships between pupils and staff are respectful and positive.

“The school joined Chiltern Learning Trust in October 2019 and since then a number of steps have been taken to improve the school.

“We know there are areas, particularly concerning teaching and the curriculum, that we need to develop further. All areas highlighted for improvement in the report we are taking very seriously and are already being addressed in our improvement action plan.

“We must note that progress over the last two years was impacted by the pressures of the pandemic where the well-being of pupils and staff was our top priority.

“The whole school community is now fully focused on ensuring all our pupils receive a high-quality education that will see them move on to their next stage of education as caring and confident young people.”

Adrian Rogers, CEO of Chiltern Learning Trust, said: “Ardley Hill Academy is a school on an improvement journey and it was pleasing to see the inspectors recognise the positive change that has taken place since the school’s last inspection, particularly on pupil behaviour and

safeguarding.

“Ardley Hill Academy joined us at a time when the school had gone through a disruptive period and we built up confidence in the teaching staff with the appointment of a new headteacher and senior leaders.

“The school will continue to benefit from the support and guidance of being part of Chiltern Learning Trust and collaborating with our other 14 schools, many of which are primary schools.

“This support is being focused on the central areas to improve as raised in the Ofsted report. We are confident that it won’t be long before the school is at the standard we all want it to be and the pride of its local community.”