The Academy was inspected in February and March 2020. The inspection took place in extraordinary circumstances. The original team arrived on 25th February but left part way through the day amid concerns that a group of academy staff and students had just returned from a ski trip in Northern Italy where the first European outbreaks of Covid-19 were taking place. The lead inspector then returned on 10th March and concluded the inspection with a different team on 11th March.
We were pleased that he inspectors judged students’ behaviour, attitudes and personal development all to be good. In particular they said that:
· Achievement is improving and the progress that pupils made between key stages 2 and 4 in 2019 was an improvement on the previous year.
· Relationships between staff and pupils are strong.
· Pupils feel happy and safe in the ‘tight-knit’ community of this small school.
· Pupils said that teachers help them when they need it.
· Leaders ensure that differences between people are celebrated.
· Pupils said that bullying does not happen very often. They are confident that when it does occur, teachers will deal with it effectively. Pupils value the work of the anti-bullying ambassadors.
· Corridors and social spaces are calm and well supervised. Pupils are mostly polite and respectful of adults and of each other. Most pupils behave sensibly and safely. They generally behave well in lessons.
· The school’s wider curriculum helps to develop pupils’ confidence, resilience and independence. Many pupils greatly appreciate the vast opportunities offered, such as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and taking part in school productions.
· Under the direction of the Headteacher, leaders are in the process of broadening the curriculum offer so that all pupils study a wider range of subjects in Year 9.
· The number of pupils following the English Baccalaureate suite of subjects is increasing.
· Teachers have high expectations of pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND). They use the information that they have about pupils with SEND effectively. Pupils with SEND are supported well with their learning.
· Leaders have worked hard to improve pupils’ attendance. All pupils, including those who are disadvantaged and those with SEND, attend regularly. Much is done to keep pupils’ attendance high.
· Similarly, leaders’ expectations of behaviour are high. Inspectors observed positive attitudes towards learning.
· Leaders have prioritised pupils’ wider development. By devoting weekly curriculum time to enrichment activities, leaders have made sure that all pupils, including those who are disadvantaged, benefit from an array of vibrant opportunities. For example, pupils can choose from a diverse range of clubs such as Japanese language and film, and drama in the community.
· The Headteacher has the support of staff, parents, carers and the wider community. He has the best interests of the pupils at heart. Staff appreciate support for their well-being.
· All staff take pupils’ welfare seriously. They meet regularly to discuss strategies to keep vulnerable pupils safe. Staff know pupils well and are alert to the signs that a pupil may be at risk of harm. Leaders work well with external agencies. They take appropriate action to ensure that pupils and their families get the help that they need.
· Pupils have a good understanding of the different risks that they face. They know how to keep safe when using the internet and particularly on social networking sites.
However, the inspectors judged the quality of education and leadership to require further improvement. These judgements stemmed from the fact that they did not like our innovative and unusual curriculum (even though it had been singled out for praise in every single one of our previous inspections). We strongly believe that this judgement is flawed because:
· As an Academy we have the power by law to design our own curriculum and are exempted from having to implement the national curriculum. OFSTED does not have the power to change the law.
· The ambition of our curriculum is illustrated by the fact the proportion of our students who take (and make good progress in) subjects such as History, French and Spanish, which are usually regarded as among the most challenging on the curriculum, exceeds that across other schools nationally. Inspectors did not take this into account.
· We provided the inspectors with detailed plans of how we intended to change our Year 9 curriculum within the two year grace period stipulated in the new OFSTED framework. Unhelpfully, they did give any views on the suitability of these plans.
· We provided the inspectors with data that showed that, once all the exams students took in Years 9 and 10 were taken into account, our students who left in 2019 had made faster than average progress since joining the Academy. They did not take this into account.
· We provided the inspectors with detailed information on the progress we have made in relation to each and every one of the action points in our previous inspection report. They did not take this into account in judging the work done by leaders, governors and Academy staff over the last two years.
As a result of these concerns, we have joined the growing number of schools who have made a formal complaint to OFSTED about both the progress of the inspection and the judgements that the inspectors reached. We have proposed that either, given the extraordinary circumstances of March, the inspection is declared null and void or, failing that, that the judgements on quality of education and leadership are reviewed. The inspectors’ report can be found here; our complaint can be found here.
We will keep the information on our website updated as our conversations with OFSTED continue. In the meantime, we will, of course, continue our work to develop every aspect of the Academy for the benefit of our students. This has been our mission since we opened in 2011 and we will continue to spare no effort to “make our best better”. It is just unfortunate the report, as it currently stands, is not more helpful in supporting us on this journey.
The Macclesfield Academy