AN OXFORD secondary school once named the worst in the county has hauled itself out of special measures.

Oxford Academy’s rating from education watchdog Ofsted went up this month from ‘inadequate’ to ‘requires improvement’.

Niall McWilliams, , who became headteacher at the Littlemore school in March, said it was just the beginning of the journey.

He said teaching and behaviour had both improved. Ofsted inspectors who visited in December rated behaviour and sixth form provision ‘good’.

Pupils’ achievement, quality of teaching and leadership, and management all still require improvement. Mr McWilliams said since he took up his post, new approaches had been introduced, including one-to-one reading and literacy lessons for pupils struggling in class, as well as a family mentoring support scheme.

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Mr McWilliams said more subject specialist teachers had been brought in, including those for English and maths.

He added behaviour had improved across the school after having a “very, very clear policy” which was continually reinforced by teachers during assemblies and tutorials.

Class sizes are also smaller than average, with between 20 and 25 students in a class rather than between 25 and 30.

Mr McWilliams, former head of Carterton Community College, said: “We are absolutely delighted Ofsted recognised the improvements that have been happening.

“We are determined to improve the school even further and do even better for our students and the community.

“There is no doubt we are getting better.”

The Sandy Lane West school, which has 1,267 students, was placed in special measures in January 2013, following an Ofsted inspection in November 2012.

Ofsted inspectors have made five interim inspection reports since then, the last of which said it was making “reasonable progress” to getting out of special measures.

Back in January 2013, the Department for Education found just 26 per cent of pupils had achieved five A* to Cs at GCSE including English and maths, well below the Government benchmark of 40 per cent. That made it the worst in the county and the 25th worst in the country. An interim executive headteacher David Brown was parachuted in to help the school improve that month, and an academic coaching programme with volunteers from both Oxford universities was created to work one-to-one with pupils who need extra help.

By last summer, 31 per cent of pupils had achieved the five A* to C grades, including English and Maths.

Oxfordshire county councillor for the Leys Steve Curran said it was “fantastic” news for the community. He said: “As a councillor I want to see the best possible educational opportunities for residents. The fact the school is becoming more community-orientated is good news.

“I am really pleased.”

School's history

  • The Oxford Academy was the city’s first academy, opening in September 2008.
  • It replaced Peers School, which in its last year only saw 18 per cent of pupils achieving five A* to Cs including English and maths.
  • Peers went into special measures in October 2005 but came out under the leadership of headteacher Lorna Caldicott in January 2007.
  • Oxford Academy is sponsored by the Diocese of Oxford, Oxford Brookes University and The Beecroft Trust.
  • In 2012, it was rated “inadequate” after previously being rated ‘satisfactory’ in 2010.
  • It was placed into special measures in 2013, which was followed by five further interim reports.
  • It is now currently rated as ‘requires improvement’.

Key Ofsted points

After their December 2014 visit, inspectors wrote: “There have been rapid improvements at the academy since the arrival of the new principal.

"Staff and students say they welcome his unrelenting efforts to ensure that every student is valued and has their needs met, whatever their background or ability.”

They said Mr McWilliams was forging strong links with his community, adding: “The purposeful atmosphere in lessons encourages students to learn well”.

The school’s overall rating was ‘requires improvement’.

In order to reach ‘good’ overall, inspectors said more students needed to get grade C or above in GCSE English and maths.

They said: “Improvements in the quality of teaching have not yet enabled all students to make good enough progress’’.

Read the full Ofsted report: Oxford Academy Ofsted Report January 2015.pdf

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