A SCHOOL has been branded 'inadequate' for the second time in a row after failing to convince Ofsted of any real improvements.

St Gregory the Great Catholic School in East Oxford has been given the worst rating again and remains in special measures, more than two and a half years after the regulator raised major concerns.

The new report for the all-through academy, published today, said: "This is a school that is slightly better than it used to be, but is still not good enough.

"The quality of education on offer is inadequate - leaders’ lack of ambition over several years is to blame.

"Quality of teaching for older pupils is often adversely affected by cover arrangements or staff working out of their specialism."

The school in Cricket Road had 1,125 pupils on roll during the two-day inspection, which took place in mid October, but has capacity for 1,695.

READ AGAIN: The school's feedback was more positive in October last year

It is run by the Dominic Barberi Multi Academy Company (DBMAC), which also runs six other Oxfordshire schools.

St Greg's was forced into special measures in May 2017 after being rated 'inadequate', followed by five 'monitoring' inspections to check on progress.

This was the first full inspection since, and its first chance to gain a new rating and get out of special measures.

The new report said: "Over a protracted period, directors of the DBMAC have not ensured that the quality of leadership is proficient enough to take the school forward.

"Directors, governors and the executive principal have not united leaders towards common goals.

"Leaders do not act as a cohesive team, and longstanding tensions are all too obvious."

The report is the second blow this week for schools serving some of Oxford's most deprived areas, following revelations that The Oxford Academy in Littlemore was in turmoil and had seen the departure of its head and governors.

READ AGAIN: Mum says school is 'like juvey' as head and governors leave

The two aspects of St Greg's not rated 'inadequate' were the early years phase, which maintained its previous rating of 'good', and the sixth form, which went from 'inadequate' last time to 'requires improvement'.

Inspectors said 'some pupils get a good deal and others don't' but that primary phase pupils are 'happy, settled and learning well'.

Despite inspectors observing 'notable improvements' and 'better control' across the rest of the school, as well as 'many leadership changes', they added: "Improvement is fragile and not far-reaching enough. Too many pupils still have a poor experience of their schooling.

"Pupils’ attendance is low, and persistent absence too high."

Inspectors praised staff for showing 'dogged resilience' despite the turmoil, but said many were 'exhausted, frustrated and disheartened' by the continued scrutiny of standards.

One pupil's father said behaviour of some children at the school was 'wild', and leaders seemed more interested in upholding uniform rules.

The dad, who asked not to be named, said: "I have experienced it myself as I drop off my kids and collect - the children walk the streets as if it’s a playground.

"The school cannot control the children's behaviour, or at least be at a mutual respect level.

"It’s a shame that the school have not been able to turn the tables on their inadequate performance."

ALSO READ: Why the school was placed in special measures to begin with

Ofsted did say safeguarding procedures were 'much improved' and 'effective', but that 'strong governance and clear senior leadership' was needed.

Some older pupils told inspectors that 'life can be difficult' for new starters and that bullying still happens, albeit not as much as before.

County councillor John Howson, who has closely followed the school's plight, said he found some parts of the report 'disturbing'.

He said: "The Archdiocese [of Birmingham, which oversees the county's Catholic academies] must answer for this failure.

"It must now explain, after so long, how they have the capacity and energy to provide high quality education for all pupils - Catholic or not - that attend the school."

Academy trusts are held to account by regional schools commissioners, part of the Department for Education (DfE).

ALSO READ: Concerns over academies as teenager awaits school place

Critics have raised concerns, however, about a perceived lack of accountability in the academy system when compared to council-run schools.

Prof Howson said: "Regional schools commissioners seem to have failed to do anything.

"Frankly, if this had been a local authority school, the votes would have kicked out the local councillors.

"Those responsible above the level of the school can now get away with this poor leadership and lack of strategic planning with impunity."

A spokesperson for the DfE said: "The department and the regional schools commissioner are working closely with the trust to deliver the improvements this school needs and its pupils deserve.

"The regional schools commissioner or the Education and Skills Funding Agency will take appropriate action wherever an academy is judged inadequate by Ofsted."

In a letter to parents today, school leaders wrote: "The report is obviously a very disappointing result.

"However, it must be said that all staff in school are committed to providing the best education for the children.

"We look forward to working with you and thank you all for your continued support."

It was signed by Hannah Forder-Ball, the school's primary head, Sean Tucker, head of secondary, and Fraser Long, the executive principal.

In June 2018 it emerged that the DBMAC would merge with Pope Francis Catholic Multi Academy Company, Oxfordshire's other Catholic school trust.

Read more about that plan here

Ofsted revealed that 'no firm date' has been set for the merger yet.

The education regulator brought in a new inspection framework in September.