Approaching their third anniversary following academy conversion, staff and students at the Academy at St James have plenty of reasons to celebrate this month after OFSTED deemed the school to be strongly “good” in the majority of areas.
The two-form primary school which had previously been rated as inadequate by OFSTED prior to Academy conversion, got a fantastic four good judgements out of a possible five and was praised for the “rapid improvements made since becoming an academy”. School Leadership was deemed to be “good” with leaders described as “ambitious about pupils’ attainment” and the Trust was credited as having “secured a stable and committed team”.
During the two-day inspection OFSTED noted improvement across most areas of the school, particularly noting the “success in improving the standards in English and mathematics.” The school was also praised for ensuring pupils have access to a broad curriculum and making reading their top priority.
For the youngest children, the early years’ leaders and staff were deemed to be making much stronger progress following effective use of training and the new phonics programme was credited as helping many more pupils to read with accuracy at an earlier stage. As a result of their findings, and after considering the latest 2019 data which shows phonics to have improved to broadly national average, OFSTED rated early years’ provision as “good”.
Subject leaders, supported by senior leaders and the Trust, are also continuing to make further improvements to the curriculum – particularly to support those pupils with SEN or disabilities who would benefit from more practice reading moving forwards.
Most importantly and perhaps the biggest areas for celebration, was the feedback from school pupils and the excellent way they conducted themselves during the inspection.
OFSTED confirmed that “pupils’ behaviour has been transformed” and “staff have increased pupils’ interest in learning and eagerness to be at school every day”. The report quotes “Pupils are responding very positively to the changes. They want to come to school every day so they don’t miss out….. Pupils say that staff take good care of them…. They feel safe because they trust the adults in school to sort out any problems they may face”. As a result, attendance at school has improved and the school was judged to be “good” by OFSTED for both Behaviour and Attitudes and Personal Development.
Carol Dewhurst, CEO of Bradford Diocesan Academies Trust, commented “This report is fantastic recognition of the hard work, dedication and determination of senior leaders and staff at the Academy at St James to improve the quality of education and school experience for their pupils. As the report acknowledges, school has been on an extremely turbulent journey and has emerged in a far stronger place. This report, coupled with a huge 27% increase in the number of pupils passing their reading, writing and maths exams in summer 2019 at KS2, means that although we still want to improve further, we are firmly and quickly heading in the right direction. We recognise we still require some improvements, but are pleased to have been confirmed as good in so many areas”.
Chris Tolson, Head Teacher at the Academy at St James, said “The school has changed dramatically in the last 8 terms and the report reflects the transformation we have seen in behaviour, attendance and attainment. I am very proud of all the children, staff and community who have supported us to improve each and every day. It has been a wonderful journey and we have come through the most challenging of circumstances and are now determined to keep moving the school forward to give our children the best possible offer. The children are fantastic, and I would like to thank all the staff for sticking together and for their commitment to providing a good education to all our pupils. We know what we need to do next and I am very excited about the next few years at St James”.
To read the full report visit: https://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/provider/21/143847
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