A SCHOOL plagued by a string of critical reports has been praised as a ‘different place’ after a determined campaign to improve.

St Gregory the Great Catholic School in East Oxford has finally gained a positive Ofsted report and started to rebuild its reputation, almost 18 months after being rated ‘inadequate’ and placed in special measures.

The all-through academy received a check-up inspection last month – the third since being given the watchdog’s worst rating in May 2017 – and inspectors left impressed.

Ofsted’s new report, circulated to parents on Friday, stated: “At last the school is moving forwards.

“Directors, governors and leaders agree that no more time must be wasted - it has taken too long to get to this improved position of confidence and understanding.

“Leaders are now working with momentum, determination and focus.

“[They] are no longer making excuses for failures in the past. Instead, they are trying to use the lessons learned to put pupils first.”

The monitoring visit, also called a section 8 inspection, concluded that leaders are taking effective action towards the removal of special measures.

It is a major improvement since Ofsted’s last visit in May, after which it branded the pace of change ‘unacceptable’ and partly blamed the Dominic Barberi Multi Academy Company (DBMAC), which runs the school in Cricket Road.

Paul Concannon, chair of the DBMAC’s board of directors, said: “The school is a totally different place now and we are all very excited about the progress.”

The new report noted how ‘tension’ among leadership team members during the last inspection has been replaced by a shared sense of purpose.

It said the school’s amended plans to guide change had already seen ‘tangible and positive impact’, and teaching, learning and behaviour were all improving.

Ofsted's report stated: “Teachers’ raised expectations, more consistent leadership and better systems of sanctions and consequences are changing pupils’ attitudes.

“The worrying incidents of disrespectful and defiant behaviour seen outside of class at the last monitoring inspection were not evident this time.

“Around the site, pupils of all ages are friendly and polite. They wear their uniform proudly and try to show off their best side in lessons and with visitors.”

Inspectors said staff and pupils spoke about the ‘calm and civilised’ atmosphere at the school and that no-one appeared to be ‘left out or lonely’ during break time.

They praised acting head of school, Sean Tucker, for ‘gaining confidence and ownership of the school’s direction’ and providing a ‘reassuring and stable presence’.

Their report added: “Determination, careful planning and a can-do attitude characterise the work of assistant headteachers responsible for teaching, learning and pupils’ behaviour and attendance.

“These leaders have won the faith and respect of staff, governors and directors because of the impact that they have already made.

“There is no doubt that school leaders work extremely hard, and that they are now more confident in their work.”

In March 2017 the school taught almost 1,400 pupils but this has since dropped to 1,200.

Though Ofsted said GCSE and A-Level grades had been ‘disappointing’ due to the ‘legacy’ of weak teaching, the report added: “School leaders, governors and directors are not making any excuses for poor outcomes and have got straight on with analysing pupils’ performance and identifying what needs to change.”

The school is now being supported by an adviser commissioned by the Archdiocese of Birmingham, instead of a ‘national leader of education’ who had been drafted in following the initial Ofsted.

Acting head Mr Tucker said: “We are pleased with the report as it clearly shows that we are moving along on our journey of improvement.

“There is a real drive and sense of purpose behind all aspects of school life and this is something which permeates across every layer of school leadership, from the classroom teacher to the directors.

“Ultimately we are all committed to providing the very best education for our young people.”

County councillor and education expert John Howson, who had been critical about the quality of education at the school, is now hopeful for its future.

He said: “I am delighted that the stage of denial has been passed and that by facing up to the problems, the school has made a good start at tackling them.

“The support available to the staff should mean that sooner rather than later this will be a school that parents actively want to send their children to.

“The journey has started but the way will not be easy."