Special school saved from ‘quagmire of inadequacy’

From left: Pupils Layla Powell, Ellie Hill and Amelia Huscroft celebrate the latest Ofsted report on Hope Wood Academy in Easington Colliery.
From left: Pupils Layla Powell, Ellie Hill and Amelia Huscroft celebrate the latest Ofsted report on Hope Wood Academy in Easington Colliery.
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A special school’s new leadership team has rescued it from a “quagmire of inadequacy” say education bosses.

Easington’s Hope Wood Academy has been brought out of the ranking of inadequate and now has some good features, say Ofsted inspectors.

This is just the start of the journey

Rachel Ireland

The school, formerly called Glendene Arts Academy, was thrown into turmoil in summer 2014 when Ofsted placed it in special measures for a catalogue of failings.

However, after joining the Sunderland-based Ascent Trust, a multi-academy trust of special needs schools, and changing the name of the school to Hope Wood Academy, Ofsted has re-inspected the school.

Although still classed as requiring improvement overall, the watchdog chiefs said the Crawlaw Road school, an all-age academy for children with special needs, has good leadership and the personal development of pupils is also good.

All Year 11 leavers achieved qualifications in both English and maths and there were exceptional results in art.

Headteacher of the 181 pupil academy, Rachel Ireland, said: “We are thrilled that the inspectors recognised our vision and how far we had already come in a relatively short space of time.

“This is just the start of the journey, but with the help of our hardworking staff, our visionary trust leaders, our wonderful students and their families, there is only one direction of travel and that is upwards.”

Chief executive of the Ascent Academies Trust, Paul Makin, added: “We will continue to build upon our strengths, working right across the trust to identify the very best practices which will be developed by our new academy improvement leads in order to improve outcomes for children with complex needs.”

Inspectors recognised that insufficient time had passed to implement the trust’s ambitious improvement plans, but said: “Leaders’ uncompromising vision, that pupils will achieve their best, has been at the heart of the work. This vision is driving the rapid improvement seen across the gamut of the school’s work.

“Leaders have rescued the school from the quagmire of inadequacy and are moving it forward successfully.”

In the latest report, inspectors said: “The quality of teaching, although improving, is still too variable. Sometimes the work set by teachers is not sufficiently challenging for the most able.

“Pupils do not make consistently good progress in subjects beyond English and mathematics. This is because improvements in the broader curriculum are too new to have had the desired impact.

“The history of underachievement and previous lack of appropriate courses has resulted in some older pupils, particularly the most able, not achieving the standards or qualifications of which they are capable.”

But, they went on to say: “Leaders are rebuilding the previously shattered morale of the school community effectively. Older pupils report how much better the school is.

“Pupils say they behave well because rules are clear, fair and used consistently by staff.”