Farnley Academy has moved from being an ‘outstanding’ school to one that ‘requires improvement’, according to independent Ofsted inspectors.
The authority expressed concerns about off-rolling pupils to alternative provision at The Stephen Longfellow Academy (TSLA) in Holbeck, a claim denied by the Gorse Academies Trust, which runs both schools.
According to the Government off-rolling is ‘the practice of removing a pupil from the school roll without a formal, permanent exclusion or by encouraging a parent to remove their child from the school roll, when the removal is primarily in the interests of the school rather than in the best interests of the pupil’.
The report says Farnley Academy provides a ‘good quality’ of education but added concerns about the number of isolations and moving pupils to alternative provision.
It stopped short of accusing the school of off-rolling, but raised concerns about the decision to move pupils onto the roll of alternative provision run by the trust.
The report said:
“Although leaders have high expectations of pupils’ behaviour, they do not ensure that pupils’ behaviour and attitudes are consistently good.
“A small number of pupils do not engage in their learning as positively as they should. There is more that could be done for some so that they are able to remain in the school.
“A small number of pupils are isolated from main lessons too often. Several parents have chosen to home educate their children.
“Other pupils are moved from The Farnley Academy onto the roll of the trust’s alternative provision. Leaders could not convincingly explain why it was in each pupil’s best interests to move to the roll of the alternative provision, particularly during Year 11.
“Governors and trustees keep a careful check on the school’s academic performance. They challenge leaders to improve some aspects of the school.
“However, the local governing body and trustees have not had sufficient oversight of the school’s use of alternative provision and the reasons why pupils leave the school’s roll. Governors do not check well enough on the school’s strategies to improve pupils’ behaviour. They have not effectively challenged leaders to reduce the number of pupils who are isolated from the classroom. “
Inspectors have told the school that it should ensure that alternative provision is only considered after all options to support pupils in mainstream education have been exhausted. It adds:
“Leaders should ensure that appropriate records are maintained which show that the decision to place a pupil in alternative provision, or to move the pupil to the roll of the alternative provision, is made only when this is in the best interests of the pupil. “
The report also recommends that school leaders should regularly evaluate the effectiveness of the school’s behaviour systems, including through a review of the number of pupils who are repeatedly internally or externally excluded.
Farnley Academy’s response
In a letter to parents distributed to pupils this afternoon and available on the school website, Principal Chris Stokes said:
“It is important for me to make clear at this point that, during their three days of Inspection activity, Ofsted found no evidence of ‘off-rolling’ taking place within our academy.
“We know this because inspectors told us this in their verbal feedback to us, and because the new Ofsted framework makes clear that, ‘when an inspection finds evidence of off-rolling taking place inspectors should always address this in the inspection report’.
“We continue to be clear, as we were with Ofsted, that any child who transferred to TSLA did so because it supported and improved their individual life chances. We are very proud of the achievements that these students went on to secure as a result of the exceptional support they received at TSLA.
“Anyone who spends time at The Farnley Academy knows it is a brilliant school which has, for many years achieved amazing things for its pupils and its community.
“It may therefore be difficult for you, as it was for us at first, to fully understand how the above judgements were reached. As you will see within the report, Ofsted are highly complementary about the work that takes place with the students who are on our main school site.
“They comment how our school is “…calm and well-organised”, how students “…behave well and are keen to succeed” and how “pupils feel safe and are confident staff will support them and help with any concerns”.
“In addition, Ofsted are clear that our work to educate and develop young people is of the very highest level. Ofsted commented that “Pupils personal development is promoted exceptionally well”, that “Pupils have plenty of opportunities to express their own opinions” and that “Leaders are ambitious for pupils.
“They do not shy away from expecting pupils to achieve as much as possible”. This assessment is of course backed up by our continuously improving academic performance which this year saw us achieve our best-ever GCSE results, placing our academy in the top 5% of schools in the country.
“Ofsted were less complimentary, however, about our work with the most challenging small minority of students who were in some cases significantly disrupting the learning of others in the academy, and we accept their assessment.
“Our work with these students, whilst thorough and driven by the highest level of integrity, was not well documented. Ofsted were therefore not able to review the support that had been put in place and see why the decision was made to move some of these students into alternative provision.
“This is a failing on our part and for this we apologise.
“I would seek to reassure all of our community that whilst the outcome of the Ofsted Inspection was not what any of us had hoped it would be, day in, day out, your child continues to receive the very highest level of education and guidance at The Farnley Academy.
“This is a view not only held by me as Principal but also by our staff and students. During our Inspection, hundreds of our students were spoken to by Ofsted Inspectors and their overwhelming view was that they “…feel safe and well cared for…”, that “…bullying is rare” and that overall The Farnley Academy “… is a great place to be.” We are immensely proud of our students for the way that they conducted themselves throughout our Inspection.
“The outcome of the Inspection will lead to no visible change to the school and the way that it functions. In the background, however, we will be continuing our work to ensure that all students, including those who are hardest to reach, achieve the best possible outcomes.
“We now have approximately 30 months until our next Inspection. Rest assured that during this time we will leave no stone unturned in our determination to have The Farnley Academy returned to its Outstanding status; a status which is of such great importance to our pupils, our families and our wider community.”
Rest of the report
Ofsted graded Farnley Academy in the following areas:
- Good Behaviour and attitudes – Requires improvement
- Personal development – Outstanding
- Leadership and management – Requires improvement
- Overall – Requires improvement
Pupils said they felt safe and well cared-for in the school.
“Pupils enjoy attending The Farnley Academy. The school is a calm and wellorganised place to learn. Many pupils work hard. They behave well and are keen to succeed. “
The report adds that most pupils achieve well:
“Leaders are ambitious for pupils. They do not shy away from expecting pupils to achieve as much as possible. Leaders have thought about what pupils should learn, when it would be best for them to learn it and why. Most pupils achieve well. Clear plans for all subjects outline what pupils should be taught and when. Teaching supports pupils to build up their knowledge. ”
The report can be read in full here.
UPDATE: Gorse Academies Trust has issued the following statement:
“Anyone who spends time at The Farnley Academy knows that it is also a brilliant school which has, for many years, achieved amazing things for its pupils and this community.
“Today’s Ofsted report highlights numerous positive aspects of the school, including that pupils’ personal development is ‘outstanding’, that the quality of education is ‘good’ and that pupils feel safe and well-cared for in school. We are very proud of these findings and many more.
“We also recognise that Ofsted says we have not been sufficiently conscientious to ensure that our record-keeping and administration processes around how we support some of our most challenging pupils have been of the standard both we and Ofsted expect.
“We got this wrong and we apologise.
“We make a firm and clear commitment to ensuring that this area of our work is improved so that it matches the clear areas of excellence rightly identified by Ofsted in its report.
“We are clear that we always act in the best interests of pupils, and many of the pupils who transferred from Farnley joined The Stephen Longfellow Academy, which is today commended by Ofsted.”