'Notorious' Sunderland school celebrates 'good' Ofsted rating seven years after it was judged inadequate

Staff and pupils at a Sunderland school are celebrating after it was rated ‘good’ by inspectors just seven years after being condemned as inadequate.

By Kevin Clark
Wednesday, 6th July 2022, 12:33 pm

Academy 360 has been given its best ever Ofsted review by inspectors who praised its ‘aspirational’ students ‘committed to their studies’, as well as highlighting Principal Rachel Donohue and her dedicated teaching team showing “clear vision” and “ambition” for all students.

According to the report: “Academy 360 is a much-improved school where everyone is valued.

“The Principal has successfully raised expectations, both the primary and the secondary phases of the school are working well.

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“Leaders have worked hard to keep the school on an even keel through the pandemic. Staff went above and beyond to keep vulnerable pupils safe. Relationships between staff and pupils are friendly and positive.”

The Pennywell school was judged ‘inadequate’ just seven years ago and had been named one of the worst performing in the country shortly before Rachel Donohue took over as principal.

“This is a historic achievement for our school and a milestone for the community of Pennywell,” said Ms Donohue.

Head Rachel Donohue with year ten pupils Ethan Brown and Ella Grieves

“We recruited dynamic leaders and committed staff who have taken the school from strength-to-strength, supported by strong parental engagement and a relentless focus on teaching and learning.

“I am particularly proud of our staff who are described as tenacious, hard-working and determined.

“Their efforts to go above and beyond are highlighted as a strength with the result that students are increasingly aspirational and committed to their studies.

Academy 360 opened in 2008 when Quarry View Primary School and Pennywell Comprehensive were amalgamated to become an all-through academy.

It now serves a primary phase, a secondary phase and a special phase.

The school is in a community estimated to be among the most deprived in the country, with almost 70% of children eligible for free school meals.

Historically, it has also had a high staff turnover and struggled with recruitment due to its poor reputation.

The academy also admitted it had become “notorious in the local community” for its the low standard of its teaching and problems with anti-social behaviour among students.

Academy 360 has received support from the Laidlaw Schools Trust which it joined four years ago. Trust CEO Ian Simpson welcomed the latest report.

He said: “We are delighted that everybody’s hard work and determination has been formally acknowledged.”

The school’s chair of governors, Alan Hodgson, paid troibute to the had work of Rachel Donohue and her team.

He added: "I am absolutely delighted that Academy 360 has been graded Good by Ofsted.

“The principal with the senior leadership team and staff - teaching and non-teaching – have all worked extremely hard especially during Covid, ensuring that all our students feel safe at school and have access to a challenging and stimulating curriculum - all of which has been recognised by Ofsted.

“All the staff, students and parents can rightly feel proud of this fantastic achievement.

There is a real determination to succeed within our school community and as a result we can look forward to the future with confidence.”