St Neots academy defends itself against Ofsted report

Scott Preston.

Scott Preston. - Credit: Archant

The head of a St Neots academy has defended his school against an Ofsted inspector’s report that in “a number of lessons” pupils showed “apathy, boredom and rudeness” to teachers and an allegation that the teaching was poor.

Scott Preston, head of Ernulf Academy, said the report by inspector Tim Bristow was a “very skewed view”.

Mr Preston told The Hunts Post: “I went with the inspector into 10 lessons. There was only one class, a science lesson, where there was poor behaviour. I suppose one is a number but this leads to the interpretation that the bad behaviour was widespread.”

He added: “The behaviour was dealt with by the teacher and when a senior leader went back to the lesson later the students were working well by the end.”

He said the school had been inspected on the areas most in need of improvement, which was the inspector’s brief, but it missed areas where it had improved.

“The report doesn’t give the full picture. I can’t say there aren’t a number of people bored in language lessons but he saw the Year 8s in a French lesson. These were the two bottom sets.”

The report was more positive about maths where Mr Bristow reported “most students were observed working well in these lessons”. Mr Preston said Mr Bristow had seen Year 11s in maths, a class that was working hard and predicted good results.

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In December, Ofsted graded the school as ‘requiring improvement’. This is grade three on the Ofsted scale, below ‘outstanding’ and ‘good’ and one above ‘inadequate’. The school was deemed to be in need of further visits to monitor its progress.

After the first monitoring visit on March 9, the inspector reported that students did not have high enough expectations about what they could achieve in maths, science and modern languages. Most spoken to said they would be content to get a grade C at GCSE though they might be capable of doing better.

It went on to say that a culture of low aspirations was prevalent among some parents and teachers. There were pupils given a target of an E grade which was too low a goal, some students said their parents would be content if they just passed their exams.

“The attendance of between 50 and 60 per cent at parents’ evenings also indicates that there is more the school needs to do to engage parents in taking shared responsibility for their children,” said the report.

The report, published on Friday (March 20), calls on the school to strengthen the teaching of languages and science, to “act more dynamically” to raise expectations among students and teachers of what constitutes good behaviour and about what they can achieve and to drive up the achievement of disadvantaged students.

Mr Preston, who took over in January, 2013, said: “We don’t disagree with the action points. They are part of our plan and we are working hard to improve in these areas.

“Our previous report in June 2013 was ‘inadequate’ so we improved by December 2014 to ‘requiring improvement’, we are on course in the next 18 months to move up to ‘good’. It is the pattern that schools take two to three years to get to good, so we are on track.”