'Broken' Sunderland schools get improved Ofsted rating after shake-up

Two ‘broken’ Sunderland schools have pulled-off an impressive turnaround to get an improve rating by Ofsted inspectors.

Monday, 8th July 2019, 4:45 pm
New Silksworth Academy Good Ofsted L-R: Alisha Charlton, 11, head girl; Julie Deville, CEO of Extol Trust; Jack Gettins, 11, head boy; Ava Keerie, 6; Coun Phil Tye; Sarah Mincher, deputy headteacher; Emma Robins, headteacher; Joshua Richmond, 6.

A new management team stepped in to take over at the struggling New Silksworth Academy Infant and Junior schools in 2016 after a damning inspection report.

But now, less than three years later, teachers and pupils are celebrating after Ofsted inspectors gave both marks of Good in all areas, highlighting the ‘determination’, ‘vision’ and ‘passion’ of the team brought in and tasked with improving standards.

“We weren’t ducking challenges,” said Julie Deville, executive headteacher of the Extol Academy Trust, which was chosen to take charge at the schools in Blind Lane.

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“They were two broken schools, the infants had an Inadequate rating and the juniors was causing the local authority some concerns as well.

“Both schools had budgets that caused concerns as well as falling rolls, high staffing turnover, leadership structures that hadn’t been sustained – overall, a lot of turbulence and the community had lost faith in their schools.”

The decision to join the Hartlepool-based Extol Trust was prompted by a damning Ofsted inspection of the infant school in 2015 which saw it graded Inadequate, blasting a ‘lack of rigour’ among school bosses.

The findings prompted Sunderland City Council to ask Silksworth councillor Phil Tye to take the helm of an ‘interim executive board’ responsible for turning the school around.

Even though there was some concern about an academy trust based almost 30 miles away taking charge, Coun Tye insists its ethos, as well as similarities between the two areas made it a good fit.

He said: “It’s been transformational, there’s no comparison between [then and now] – the difference in leadership in the building block to start off with and then everything else starts to fall into place after that.”

Among the areas praised by inspectors was links between parents and staff, which according to the schools’ headteacher Emma Robins has seen parents given the opportunity to observe ‘live learning’ and even take part in phonics and reading workshops.

However, assessors also found pupils needed to be challenged more, especially in subjects other than English and maths, for the school to improve further.