A SPECIAL school that has 'seriously let down' pupils is not improving at sufficient pace, Ofsted has said.

Northfield School in Blackbird Leys was rated 'inadequate' in December and forced into special measures, after damning feedback about bad behaviour, absence and teaching.

A new report has revealed that although much progress has been made, the school's improvement plan is 'not fit for purpose.'

Ofsted's fresh analysis, based on a check-up inspection in March, said: "An effective start has been made in tackling weaknesses previously identified.

"Interim leaders have taken determined action...However, the school’s internal capacity to make and sustain the necessary pace and scale of improvement remains weak.

"There is much still do to resolve the situation for many pupils who have previously been seriously let down."

The school had 69 boys on roll at the time of inspection, aged 10-18, who have social, emotional and mental health needs.

Due to the inadequate rating the school was forced to convert into an academy, run by an academy trust rather than Oxfordshire County Council.

The report reveals that this will likely be The Gallery Trust, which already runs outstanding-rated special school The Iffley Academy in Oxford, and is due to open a new special school near Bloxham next year.

Ofsted's letter was addressed to Kay Willett, chief executive of the Gallery Trust, who has become consultant executive headteacher at Northfield.

The acting headteacher of the school has been 'signed off from work,' according to the report.

Ofsted's letter concluded that leaders are taking 'effective action' towards the removal of special measures, and that the council's action plan is 'fit for purpose', but that the school's own plan is not.

The letter said: "The school’s ‘raising achievement plan’ shows ambition, aspiration and vision for what leaders hope to achieve.

"Despite considerable detail in some respects, the plan lacks precision in others."

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Northfield School

Ofsted said the Gallery Trust has instated senior staff members to assist the school's improvement full-time, and the positive steps made have been 'entirely reliant' on their 'strong leadership'.

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It said the school is now 'calmer' and staff members feel 'the school is starting to move in the right direction.'

The last report raised concerns about the school's financial situation, but the new feedback said the 'budget deficit has been stabilised.'

Though it was noted that pupils are coming to school more regularly, attendance figures overall 'remain woefully low.'

It said more than a handful of pupils remain on roll 'without accessing full-time or, occasionally, any, education.'

Ofsted said improvement in pupils' behaviour is 'encouraging' and there is less bullying, but 'many pupils still routinely demonstrate disaffection and disengagement.'

The report added: "This still goes unchallenged by some staff, who too readily accept, and so almost condone, pupils’ choices to opt out."

The inspector said the pupils he met were 'excellent representatives of the school,' however, and also noted that the number of exclusions has 'fallen dramatically' this term.

In December Oxfordshire County Council revealed £9.5m to rebuild and expand Northfield, in place of controversial plans to close it.

The school building in Knights Road has been dogged with problems including asbestos damage, and had to close again on Friday for emergency repairs, which the council said was due to an issue with the fire doors.

READ AGAIN: Northfield closes - again - for urgent repairs

Work is ongoing and the school will reopen two days late after the Easter break, to allow for the completion of repairs.

A council spokesman said: "Significant progress has been made at the school since Ofsted’s November visit but as the monitoring report states, there’s more to be done.

"The council will remain heavily involved as Northfield continues its journey of improvement - Northfield is very much at the centre of future plans for special educational needs provision in Oxfordshire.

"The council and the Gallery Trust are continuing to work closely together to ensure that students receive a high quality education."

It confirmed that the council is awaiting word from the Regional School’s Commissioner, which oversees academies, as to whether or not The Gallery Trust can officially take over Northfield School.