Progress at Thetford Academy after poor start, Ofsted inspectors find

A Norfolk academy is making satisfactory progress after a rocky start compounded by poor teaching and leadership, Ofsted inspectors have found.

Thetford Academy received its first monitoring visit from the education watchdog in January after opening as an academy in September 2010, merging the former Rosemary Musker and Charles Burrell schools.

The inspection report, published this month, found teaching and attainment had improved since the principal, Cathy Spillane, was appointed in April last year.

'The accelerated opening of the academy did not begin well,' the report states. 'Parents, carers and students were resistant to the move to a single secondary provision in the town.

'This was compounded by poor leadership and management within the academy, a lack of consistent policy and practices across the two sites, poor quality teaching and learning and the absence of a clear educational vision.'

It continues: 'The principal's determined and resolute leadership is putting the academy back on track. She has challenged endemic weaknesses in teaching and galvanised the commitment of staff to put the needs of students first and foremost.'

After below-average results last year, steps have been taken to fully prepare year 11 pupils for their exams and 45pc are now on track to achieve five GCSEs, including maths and English, inspectors found.

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Students said they were making better progress in maths and English because the quality of teaching had improved.

'The difficulties experienced by the academy in its first year led to a deterioration in students' behaviour and a high number of exclusions,' the report reads.

'Students say that, currently, a small minority of students disrupt lessons but feel that this has improved because most teachers are managing it better than before.'

Concerns were raised about persistent absence rates in year 11 and the 'insufficient' opportunities for sixth pupils to pursue vocational learning.

The report concludes: 'The academy has made satisfactory progress. Some concerns remain but the academy's leaders and managers are demonstrating the capacity to address these weaknesses.'

Mrs Spillane said: 'We are extremely pleased with this Ofsted report which highlights the improvements we have made so far.

'We are working hard to ensure that standards continue to rise so that all our students can reach their full potential. We are aware there is still work to be done and all the staff will be making every effort to keep up this good progress.'

Work on a new three-storey school building on the north campus is due to start next month after the project was given final approval by Partnership for Schools at the end of January.

All 1,400 pupils at the academy will be brought together on one site which will have the capacity for 2,050 students in the future.

The project is expected to be completed in August next year, with pupils due to move in the following month.

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