Confidential Ofsted inspection raises concerns about Acle Academy

Acle Academy. Picture: James Bass

Acle Academy. Picture: James Bass - Credit: James Bass

A confidential inspection of a Norfolk academy has highlighted concerns about its performance, it has emerged.

Ofsted inspectors have been carrying out pilot inspections of schools across England to help develop the methodology for new light-touch, one-day inspections it is preparing to introduce for 'good' schools.

Acle Academy was judged 'good' following its last full inspection in April 2013, and inspectors visited it for a confidential, pilot inspection on May 19-20.

The EDP understands the feedback from the inspectors was that the school would have received 'inadequate' and 'requires improvement' ratings in different areas.

However, because it was not an official inspection, the school will retain its official 'good' rating.

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Maxine Blocksidge, deputy headteacher at Acle Academy, said: 'We were selected by Ofsted as one of many schools across the country, to be part of their new pilot inspection regime. This was a pilot, and not a formal inspection, and as such the findings of that pilot have not changed the school's status of being a 'good' school.

'Any feedback from that pilot inspection will be used to boost school performance – something which we are already working closely with the county council and external partners to achieve.'

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In a letter to parents, the school said the pilot inspection would not alter the Ofsted inspection cycle, and it expected its next inspection to come between now and September.

An Ofsted spokesman said pilot inspections were only converted to full inspections if safeguarding was judged 'inadequate'.

He added: 'When Ofsted has serious concerns about a school the regional director can make a decision to conduct a 'no formal designation' inspection using section 8 powers.'

In recent years, Acle Academy has seen a steady decline in GCSE results, with the proportion of pupils achieving at least five GCSEs at A*-C, including English and maths, falling from 60pc in 2011 to 50pc last year.

A spokesman for Norfolk County Council said: 'We are working closely with Acle Academy, particularly as part of our Norfolk to Good and Great scheme. Like other schools, Acle use this scheme to help devise their own approach to self-improvement.'

The school converted to academy status in September 2012.

A letter sent to headteacher Tim Phillips in March by Tim Coulson, the regional schools commissioner, who monitors academies, said it seemed unlikely the school would retain its 'good' Ofsted grade.

Mr Coulson's letter suggested the school was considering joining a multi-academy trust, something which he encouraged.

However, Mrs Blocksidge said: 'No discussion has been held either by the governing body, leadership team or the wider school community of joining a multi-academy trust.'

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