Ofsted praises improvements at Norfolk school after concerns spark unannounced visit

Great Yarmouth Charter Academy.Picture; David Hannant

Great Yarmouth Charter Academy.Picture; David Hannant - Credit: Archant

Watchdog inspectors have praised improvements at a Great Yarmouth school after concerns over behaviour and safety sparked an unannounced visit.

Barry Smith, principal of Great Yarmouth Charter Academy. Picture: Archant

Barry Smith, principal of Great Yarmouth Charter Academy. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

Ofsted made an unannounced visit to Great Yarmouth Charter Academy in February after the chief inspector of the watchdog shared concerns 'about the behaviour and safety of pupils at the school'.

In its report, inspectors said how pupils once 'dreaded' going to school but that 'all of the large number of pupils who spoke with inspectors said that they now feel safe at school.'

The report said bullying had 'declined considerably because it is tackled effectively' and that lessons take place in a 'calm and orderly environment' with 'positive' relationships between pupils and teachers.

It comes after headmaster Barry Smith took lead of the school and introduced a series of tough new behaviour rules.

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Great Yarmouth High School became the Great Yarmouth Charter Academy at the start of August, having been taken over by the Inspiration Trust.

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Mr Smith was announced as the new principal after the high school received the lowest GCSE results in the county in the summer, with just one in three pupils achieving a pass in English and maths.

The Ofsted report said attendance was now improving at the school. Inspectors wrote that pupils who received awards for full attendance 'wear their gold '100' badges with pride and the number receiving those is rising.'

'The increased emphasis on rewarding pupils for their punctuality, behaviour and achievement is also promoting good conduct,' the report said.

As part of the visit, inspectors considered 69 responses to Ofsted's parent questionnaire, and 40 responses from staff.

Referencing the school's behaviour rules, which were deemed to be too strict by many parents, they said: 'Some parents expressed concern that a rigid application of the rules might punish, unfairly, pupils who have SEN and/or disabilities who are unable to follow particular instructions.

'Other parents were anxious that a rule designed to keep pupils within the classroom whenever possible would prevent pupils with medical needs from visiting the toilet during lesson time.

'You have ensured that the text of the policy makes clear to staff that they must be flexible when applying it. 'Teachers and pupils told inspectors that in their view, the behaviour policy is applied with due regard to individual needs.'

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Ofsted said that governors and the Inspiration Trust are providing 'valued support and incisive challenge' to the school's leadership team, with particular support for year 11 pupils and for pupils with special needs.

To improve, inspectors said the academy should continue to 'reduce the incidence of unacceptable behaviour' so the number of exclusions falls, and increase overall attendance of pupils.

Mr Smith said: 'This report clearly sets out the improvements that have taken place at charter, because pupils and staff are now working together.

'The Ofsted inspectors saw what we see everyday, which is our warm but strict approach making sure that pupils can learn and teachers can teach.'

The report will be published on Ofsted's website.

Consultation launched

The report was released on the same day the trust confirmed consultations into SEND staffing at the school had started.

They said no-one had yet been made redundant and that consultations were in the early stages.

Several higher-level teaching assistant posts, to assist pupils with SEND and those who have English as an additional language, were included in the proposed new staff structure, the trust said.

A trust spokesperson said: 'We regularly review our staffing structures to ensure that we best reflect the needs of our schools and our pupils.

'We are currently consulting with staff at Great Yarmouth Charter Academy on some proposed changes to help ensure that we have the right roles for the future.

'The proposals retain strong specialist support for children with special educational needs and English as an additional language.'

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