Ofsted inspectors have been back to Highfield Leadership Academy in Blackpool: Here's what they said about its bid to escape special measures

Ofsted inspectors have been back to Highfield Leadership Academy in South Shore, six months after it was put in special measures and branded 'inadequate'.

Wednesday, 10th July 2019, 10:42 am
Highfield Leadership Academy, pictured in 2015

In a letter to the school's headteacher Andrew Galbraith, who was appointed shortly after December's damning report, Anne Seneviratne from the education watchdog said staff were "taking effective action" with an improvement plan "fit for purpose".

A major overhaul of staff, with around 15 new teachers coming in or set to come in, has had a "positive impact" she said, adding: "As a result, Highfield Leadership Academy is in a much better place now than it was at the time of the last inspection.

"That said, there is still a long way to go if all pupils are to benefit from a high-quality education. Leaders are very much aware of how much remains to be done and the scale of the task ahead.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

"Particularly impressive is their determination in the face of this challenge. Leaders demonstrate a tangible commitment to their pupils and the wider community."

The academy trust, Star Academies, formerly the Tauheedul Education Trust, "acted swiftly" by bringing in Mr Galbraith, Ms Seneviratne said, and he has been at the "forefront of the implementation of new systems in school, particularly in relation to behaviour".

There has been "some improvement" in the overall quality of teaching in the past six months, Ofsted said, though many pupils are "still not benefiting from routinely high-quality teaching across their subjects, which is having a significant negative impact on their progress".

A full complement of permanent teaching staff is planned from September, but many pupils are still not being taught by a permanent specialist teacher, with the negative impact particularly evident in English, where only a small percentage benefit from consistently strong teaching.

A crackdown on bad behaviour has worked, and pupils told inspectors the amount of bullying had dropped, with leaders praised for their efforts to change the school's culture.

The number of children being excluded remains "very high", however, which has "exacerbated the school's low attendance figure", which remains well below the national average.

Tougher sanctions for lateness has improved punctuality, though that too remains an issue.

Highfield's current cohort of Year 11 pupils, who have just finished their GCSE exams and are preparing for life outside school, "have been badly affected by the legacy of poor leadership and teaching in recent years", and recent efforts to boost their performance will "have only had a limited effect".

Pupils in other year groups are also not making good enough progress, though teachers are now working to address the problem.

December's inspection was the first since the school controversially became an academy on the orders of the Government four years ago.

Ofsted workers turned up unannounced and said they uncovered a number of failings.

Lynette Norris had been tasked with turning the fortunes of Highfield around after being brought in in September 2015, shortly before it was announced Star would be taking over.

The school had been rated 'satisfactory' in 2011, 'requires improvement' in 2013, and 'inadequate' in 2014.

The school, which according to Ofsted has 857 pupils but has the capacity for around 1,200, remained in special measures after inspectors became so concerned about pupils' behaviour at a follow-up visit they ordered senior teachers to write an action plan before they left.

Their tour came after teachers called in police when up to 200 pupils were described as being out of control, after a spat between two schoolboys led to a crowd of youngsters chasing each other.

In February 2016, "significant water damage" was inflicted on the school after an arson attack set off the sprinkler system.

Firefighters were called after a toilet roll dispenser in a second floor boy's toilet was set alight. The fire saw pupils sent home and the school closed for the day.

Ms Norris left the school in 2017, saying at the time: "It has been an honour and a privilege to lead Highfield over the past two years and throughout the conversion with Tauheedul Trust - it has certainly been an interesting one as well."

Louise Riley then had a spell as head, before Andrew Galbraith took over in January.

Executive principal Helen Mackenzie also left her role earlier this year due to ill health, parents were told in a letter.

Mr Galbraith said in a statement: “We are pleased that following the academy’s recent monitoring visit we received a positive outcome from Ofsted.

“Ofsted acknowledged that school leaders and managers are taking effective action towards the removal of special measures. I have been determined to meet the challenge and the inspectors recognised that, along with all staff, we have worked hard to improve the behaviour of pupils, which has impacted positively on the school’s culture.

“We recognise that there is still a lot of work to do and we remain passionately committed to getting things right for our young people and our community.

"We have every confidence that the school will continue to improve at pace.”