Inspectors from Ofsted have praised Highbridge’s King Alfred School Academy in a glowing new report released this week.
Ofsted has given the school a clean sweep of ‘Good’ ratings, just five years after it was placed in special measures.
After several years of improvements, inspectors have praised the academy’s quality of education, its behaviour and attitudes, personal development, and leadership and management.
They have also highlighted the success of its expanding Sixth Form which has seen growing numbers of students in recent years.
The Ofsted report opens with inspectors praising the ‘strong sense of community of the school, adding that pupils ‘feel safe and enjoy positive relationships with staff’.
It also highlighted the positive relationships, ‘calm site’ and strong curriculum and positive attitudes of pupils.
And they noted the inclusivity, ‘ambitious and knowledge-rich curriculum’, and excellent extra-curricular provision including careers, music and the Jill Dando News Centre.
Inspectors also noted that leaders are ‘relentless’ in ensuring that students receive the help and support they need.
It was the first full inspection since TKASA entered special measures in 2018, when the school was taken on by The Priory Learning Trust.
Since then it has seen their biggest students numbers in a generation, a huge £4 million-plus of investments, and the growth of the Sixth Form which has doubled in numbers.
Principal Dan Milford told Burnham-On-Sea.com: “We are incredibly proud of the inspection report and feel it captures perfectly what a truly wonderful school TKASA is.”
“There are so many positives in the report, highlighting strengths in governance, leadership across the school, our Sixth Form, SEND, behaviour and culture and the curriculum we deliver.”
“We have such amazing students and staff at the school who have all contributed to this report and the journey the school has been on over the past few years.”
“We have a school the community can be really proud of and, of course, the support of our parents and carers over the past few years has massively helped.”
“We now look forward to improving the school even further over the next few months and years to ensure we continue to deliver a high quality education for all of our young people.”
Nathan Jenkins, who was Principal from 2018 until 2021 until he became CEO of The Priory Learning Trust in 2022, adds: “This is a really significant report for TKASA and for The Priory Learning Trust.”
“It details not just the current position of the school but also the tremendous work that has been carried out by staff, students and the whole community since they joined TPLT in 2018.”
“TKASA is a true community school and everyone has worked really hard to become one team, in pursuit of the very best education for the young people of Burnham and Highbridge.”
“The school is now incredibly well led by Mr Milford and his team and myself and Trustees would like to thank them for all their efforts. I hope the community is as proud of their school as we are.”
In a wide-ranging positive report Ofsted inspectors highlighted a raft of positive attributes and achievements.
The Ofsted report states: “There is a strong sense of community at this school. Pupils feel safe and enjoy positive relationships with staff.”
“This can be seen through the rewards system that is in place. One pupil said, ‘It makes my week if I receive a Friday praise phone call’.”
“Students in the sixth form speak highly of their tutors and the support they receive from teachers across the curriculum.”
“Pupils display positive attitudes towards their learning. Low-level disruption is not tolerated. There are strong behaviour systems in place. Pupils understand these and say they are followed consistently by staff. Bullying incidents are rare. If they do occur, pupils have confidence in leaders to resolve them effectively.”
“Pupils celebrate difference and the school is inclusive. For example, the pride club is an important part of school life. There are many opportunities for pupils to participate in extra-curricular activities. Younger pupils can be music superstars or develop their skills as a journalist at the Jill Dando news centre. Students in the sixth form participate in societies, such as debating. There are opportunities for pupils to develop their leadership skills through the prefect system.”
“There is an ambitious, knowledge-rich curriculum in place for all pupils, including those with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND). Students in the sixth form benefit from a growing range of course options. Leaders have planned the knowledge that pupils need to learn.”
“They have carefully considered the order of units within ‘learning cycles’. This ensures that pupils can build and develop their expertise in most subjects. However, in some subjects, the core knowledge that pupils need to learn is not detailed clearly enough.”
“Teachers demonstrate strong subject knowledge. Where the delivery of the curriculum is most successful, teachers use strategies such as recall quizzes and questioning to understand what pupils can do and remember. As part of the school’s ‘learning cycles’, there is a consistent approach to teachers’ use of assessment.”
“Pupils are well prepared for these assessments and understand their purpose. Teachers use this information to address misconceptions and re-visit learning where necessary.
Pupils with SEND are well supported. Teachers consider their needs in their curriculum planning. Leaders have created an alternative provision for a small number of pupils in key stage 4.”
“This is appropriate to their needs, which means that they thrive at school. A similar approach for pupils in key stage 3 was introduced at the start of this academic year. However, it is too soon for leaders to judge the impact of this.”
“Pupils are introduced to a range of texts through the school’s reading programme. They learn about different people, places and cultures. Students in the sixth form enjoy supporting younger pupils with their reading. A phonics programme has been introduced this academic year for pupils in the early stages of learning to read. However, staff have not received the specific training to help them deliver this.”
“The school site is calm. Pupils move between lessons purposefully. Routines are the bedrock of this positive culture. Staff are highly visible at all times of the school day. They model the respectful behaviours that are expected of pupils. Pupils’ attendance continues to be a stubborn issue for the school. However, leaders are taking effective action to improve the attendance of all pupils.”
“There are a wide range of enrichment opportunities available. Pupils attend trips to enhance their understanding of the curriculum. For example, there was a recent Year 11 trip to London to see ‘A Christmas Carol’. Leaders have prioritised supporting pupils with their mental health, as part of the personal development curriculum. Pupils also learn about cultures and beliefs different to their own. There is a detailed careers programme that is mapped out across all year groups. Students in the sixth form and pupils in Year 10 benefit from a comprehensive work experience opportunity. The school meets the requirements of the Baker Clause.
The effectiveness of governance has strengthened significantly. Governors are passionate about doing the best for pupils at the school. The academy council and the trust work together effectively to support leaders, but also hold them to account. Leaders gather the views of parents through regular parent forums. Despite this, a minority of parents say that communication between school and home could be improved.”
“Staff are proud to work at this school. The trust motto of ‘cherish your staff’ is lived out in practice. They talk positively about the support they receive from senior leaders. Staff well-being is always considered when leaders make changes.”
On Safeguarding, Ofsted adds: “The arrangements for safeguarding are effective. All staff and governors have received the statutory safeguarding training. There is a robust process for the safe recruitment of staff. Leaders communicate key information to staff about vulnerable pupils.”
“Leaders are relentless in ensuring that pupils receive the help and support they need. This includes working effectively with external services. Leaders have formed strong community links with charities and the local police.
There are appropriate policies and practices in place to keep pupils safe. Pupils know who to go to with any safeguarding concerns. They can also use an online platform to share any worries or to report an incident.”
Ofsted’s report also covers what the school needs to do to improve with several suggestions.
“In some subjects, the core knowledge that pupils need to learn is not broken down into sufficient detail. Therefore, pupils do not always build a secure, consistent knowledge in these subjects as they move through the key stages. Leaders should ensure that the knowledge they want pupils to learn is planned precisely in all subjects.”
“Although leaders have introduced a phonics programme for pupils at the early stages of reading, staff delivering the programme have not received appropriate training. As a result, they are not able to support pupils effectively to become fluent readers. Leaders should ensure that staff receive the necessary training to deliver the planned programme well.”
The King Alfred School Academy converted to become an academy in October 2018.
When its predecessor school, The King Alfred School, was last inspected by Ofsted, it was judged to be ‘inadequate’, as reported here.
For the full Ofsted report click https://www.tkasa.org.uk/news/2023/1/10/ofsted-report