Academy's exam results hold key says new head

Headteacher Niall McWilliams

Headteacher Niall McWilliams

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Education Reporter, also covering West Oxford. Call me on (01865) 425437

THE new headteacher of a failing academy has said they’ll find out if it has improved enough after the summer’s GCSE results.

Niall McWilliams, who took over at Oxford Academy in March, has been praised for his efforts so far.

The Sandy Lane West school was rated inadequate in January last year after an Ofsted inspection in November 2012.

Now, after a fourth monitoring visit by inspectors, the school has been praised for progress and told it is making “reasonable” progress towards being taken out of special measures.

Inspector Mary Massey visited the school just four weeks after Mr McWilliams took up the post but said: “The new principal has made a measurable, positive difference in his first few weeks in post. “Senior and middle leaders are unanimous in appreciating his very clear student- centered vision and a willingness to engage with their views, and those of students.”

Despite the positive comments, Mr McWilliams, former headteacher at Carterton Community College, thinks it won’t be until at least September that the school gets out of special measures.

He said: “I am positive Ofsted will come again this academic year, although you never know officially. “Knowing the system, they will come back again after GCSE results and I think that’s what will decide it.

“The school made improvements last year but that could have been a one-off, so they will be thinking “let’s see what they do again this year”. In terms of special measures, until we get the next set of results it will be hard to say.

“My gut feeling is we are in a good place to come out of special measures but until results we won’t know for definite.”

The academy was the worst-performing school in the county in 2012, with just 26 per cent of pupils achieving A* to C grades at GCSE including English and maths.

But last summer the number leapt to 39 per cent.

Mr McWilliams said he believes this summer the school should at least maintain those results.

Ms Massey said in the report: “The academy is on track for achievement for Year 11 in 2014 to match 2013.

“As a result of changes to the curriculum, a higher proportion of grades A* to C are expected from GCSE courses rather than vocational equivalents.

“Nevertheless, although attainment is likely to be above the minimum standard required by the Government, the proportion of students making expected progress will remain too low.”

Mr McWilliams added: “Really, we want to improve the life chances and opportunities for our pupils and I am very lucky to have the support of the students, the amazing staff and the wonderful community.”

The academy is sponsored by the Diocese of Oxford, the Beecroft Trust and Oxford Brookes University.

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