BAD behaviour, poor attendance and weak leadership have led to one of Oxford's biggest secondary schools being placed in special measures.

St Gregory the Great Catholic School in Cowley was rated inadequate – Ofsted's lowest ranking – in a highly critical report released this week.

Inspectors said staff and parents were 'rightly concerned' about the safety of pupils in the secondary phase of the school from Years 7 to Year 13.

They also said senior leaders had been so focused on a budget deficit at the academy trust in charge of the school that they had not been able to improve behaviour, teaching and results.

The report found Marcella McCarthy was expected to do too much, as she is also a director of the multi academy company which runs the school and six others.

But troubleshooting former headteacher Elizabeth Lutzeier, who has been brought in to help the school improve, said she was optimistic things would be turned around.

Ms Lutzeier, a 'national leader of education', said: "We are all terribly disappointed. There is no way around that.

"We take on board all of the points for improvement. We do not just want to meet the bare minimum of improvements, we want to move towards outstanding.

"Our key focuses are behaviour and progress.

"This school has great potential.

"I have not seen anything that suggests this cannot be sorted out quite quickly."

The school in Cricket Road is an all-through school and has 1,370 pupils aged from three to 19.

It became an academy, run by the Dominic Barberi Multi Academy Company, in 2013.

After the visit in March, inspectors had praise for the early years provision, which was rated good, and the leadership of the primary school phase, as well as 'effective leadership of teaching' in sixth form.

But they also said a 'small minority of pupils seriously misbehave and a greater number regularly disrupt lessons'.

Speaking about behaviour one member of staff told inspectors: "I love this school but we cannot go on like this."

Fewer than six out of 10 parents who responded to Ofsted's online questionnaire said they would recommend the school to others.

Ofsted also noted that the use of physical restraint by staff responding to incidents was too high, and that some pupils said they did not feel safe in certain parts of the school.

Ms Lutzeier said: "We are arranging a meeting soon after half-term with parents to talk through with them our plans, which will go in phases.

"We have done some things but we have big improvements for September.

"There are a lot of very dedicated staff here."

In April 2016 the Oxford Mail revealed the Dominic Barberi Multi Academy Company had been reprimanded for losing £900,000 in a year.

The trust's financial situation has since improved, but it was this deficit that Ofsted said had been focused on at the expense of behaviour, teaching and outcomes.

Oxford city councillor for Cowley David Henwood, who works at the school, said he felt the school was better than the report suggested.

He said: "The report is a reflection of what the inspectors saw on the day but the school has already moved on since then.

"We have excellent staff delivering excellent lessons.

"Oxford City Council is proactively having a stakeholders' meeting in the near future to see what we can do to provide support for the school."

In February the sixth form was praised for securing top position in a league table.

Students scored a third of a grade better on average than expected compared to the national average in the past school year.

It means the school's 'progress score' – which covers A-Levels and other 16-18 qualifications – is the highest in Oxfordshire.