Dixons Unity Academy ‘making progress’ to tackle serious weaknesses, Ofsted says

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dixons unity academy
Dixons Unity Academy.

Leaders at Dixons Unity Academy ‘have made progress to improve the school – but more work is necessary for the school to be no longer judged as having serious weaknesses’, Ofsted inspectors have said.

The school, based Whingate Road, Armley, was judged to have serious weaknesses following the inspection in March 2023, which said the school was ‘inadequate’ overall. But a monitoring inspection published today said the school is making progress, praising leaders and staff for taking ‘purposeful action’ to improve the school.

It notes the school has made a number of new staff appointments and established an academy improvement board in a bid to raise standards.

New subject leaders are working with their teams to enhance subject knowledge and pedagogical expertise. The report adds: “You are taking important action to strengthen relationships with your local community. You have made the school a community hub, providing direct support for essential resources and signposting families to external services to get them the help that they need.”

The report raised issues with pupils’ attendance and said: “One of the biggest barriers to pupils experiencing an acceptable quality of education remains poor rates of attendance. This currently stands at 82% for all pupils. You have increased the capacity of the attendance team. The team is providing a range of support for pupils and families, including making a high number of home visits. High rates of suspension for poor behaviour add to the problem. You remain determined not to lower rates of suspension by lowering expectations of behaviour. There are signs of improvement for some pupils.”

The monitoring report concludes: “New strategies to improve the curriculum, SEND provision and attendance take time to show impact. However, the pace and purpose of improvement are clear. You have led significant improvement action in a short space of time.”

In a letter to parents yesterday, Luke Sparkes, chief executive of Dixons Academies Trust, said Ofsted’s original report highlighted a number of positive aspects, including that students feel safe at school and that most are happy, and that “behaviour in classrooms is routinely calm and orderly” – but that inspectors had highlighted some areas for improvement.

He said the trust had disagreed with a number of the original concerns and had lodged a formal complaint with Ofsted at the time.

“However, it was also important that we addressed the areas where we agreed there was room for improvement,” Mr Sparkes said. “We have, therefore, been working extremely hard over the last six months to deliver the action plan we drew up to achieve rapid improvement of the school.

“Ofsted inspectors visited Dixons Unity just before Christmas for a monitoring inspection and I am delighted to say their report confirms we are making good progress. I would like to thank all the staff for the work they have done, and for the support and advice provided by our new academy improvement board.

“In particular, they have praised the impact that a number of new staff have made alongside our excellent existing team. These include new subject leaders in maths, PE, business, and information technology; an assistant principal in charge of alternative provision; a number of appointments to increase the capacity of the special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) team, including a new special educational needs co-ordinator; and extra staff in the pastoral team and the attendance team.

“Ofsted says that the hard work the Dixons Unity team has put in has improved even further the quality of education at the school. The inspectors also praise Mr Jacobs, appointed last year, for his leadership.

“The final highlight I would like to pull from the report is the recognition Ofsted gives to our work to make the school “a community hub”. It is so important to us that our academies are central to their communities, supporting families and students beyond the school gates.

“At Dixons Unity, through our ‘Unity Community’ hub, we provide direct support for essential resources, and we signpost families to external services, so they get the help they need. Staff have reached out to families at summer and at Christmas fares; and they make regular calls to parents to build stronger bonds and overcome some of the barriers to students’ education that have intensified in the post-COVID period. Links between home, the community and school have never been as important as now and I am very proud Dixons Unity is a beacon in this area.

“However, the positive comments throughout the report do not mean we will stop working hard for your children. There is always more to do, and we are looking forward to making the school even better. Thank you for all your support as we do this.”

The monitoring is it and original report can be read here.

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