Robert Smyth Academy in Harborough ordered to do better by Ofsted

Robert Smyth Academy's principal Sue Jones took over from Colin Dean, right, in September 2014.
Robert Smyth Academy's principal Sue Jones took over from Colin Dean, right, in September 2014.

Robert Smyth Academy in Harborough has been told it must do better in a mixed report by Ofsted inspectors.

It is the second time in 18 months that the school, in Burnmill Road, has been told it needs to improve.

The same conclusion was reached by Ofsted inspectors in September 2013.

The inspector’s summary was published by Robert Smyth on its own website last week before the school broke up for the Easter half-term break.

A letter sent home to parents has also been published on the school’s website.

It is now four years and five months since the 1,270-pupil school was last rated “good” by inspectors, in an Ofsted report in November 2010.

But in the letter to parents, Robert Smyth’s recently-appointed principal Sue Jones, moved quickly to reassure parents that improvements were on the way.

She said the school had already identified the areas where improvements were needed and was “implementing effective strategies to make rapid gains in these areas”.

Mrs Jones, who has only been in charge for six months, added: “We have already identified key priorities to move rapidly to ‘good’ and on to ‘outstanding’.”

The latest Ofsted report says that four broad areas at Robert Smyth “require improvement”.

The four areas are the school’s leadership and management; behaviour and safety of pupils; the quality of teaching; and the achievement of pupils.

The school’s sixth-form provision, however, was cause for more a positive outlook, as it was singled out as “good” in the report, which follows a visit by a team of five inspectors on March 10 and 11.

The school has about 450 pupils in its sixth-form.

The report comes at a time when Robert Smyth will soon be competing for pupils aged 11-16 with two other district schools.

Plans for a radical change to the secondary schools system in Harborough have already been given the go-ahead by the Government.

The change means that in the near future all three state secondaries in the Market Harborough area – Kibworth High School, Robert Smyth and Welland Park Academy – will teach pupils in the 11 to 16 age range.

Kibworth changes to an 11-16 school in September.

It’s most recent Ofsted rating, in April 2013, was “good”.

Then from September next year, Welland Park Academy in Market Harborough, will also move to teach the 11 to 16 age range.

Welland Park’s last Ofsted report – in May 2012 – said the school was “outstanding”.

But Sue Jones said: “You have to see a school to really judge it. I want parents to come and see us on an ordinary school day and judge for themselves.”

The next official Robert Smyth Open Day, when parents can visit the school, is on Wednesday, May 6 at 1.45pm.

In her letter to parents, Mrs Jones added: “The Ofsted team recognised the good progress made since the last inspection as well as the capacity for leaders to drive forward further improvements.”

She said the school was “particularly delighted that the success of our 450-strong sixth-form was acknowledged, following on from our best-ever results last summer”.

The school was also praised by inspectors for its very good progress in maths, music and most science subjects.

A total of 44 lessons taught by 42 different teachers were observed by inspectors.

They also took into account 118 responses from parents in an online questionnaire and 51 responses to a staff survey.

A full-length report is due to be published by the schools’ inspection organisation on April 15.

Inspectors identify four areas to improve

Robert Smyth Academy’s latest Ofsted report identified the school as “requiring improvement” in four areas.

These were in leadership and management; the behaviour and safety of pupils; the quality of teaching; and the achievement of pupils.

The inspectors looked at these four areas in finer detail in their report, published on the Robert Smyth website last week.

Despite the headline results, the feedback from inspectors shows that there is plenty of positive news at the academy.

And in most areas improvements are already starting to show.

Leadership and management: The Ofsted report claims that over time senior leaders and governors have not secured good rates of progress for all students at the school.

However, the report does acknowledge that “the relatively new principal and vice-principal are fully aware that the academy requires improvement and they have correctly identified most of the necessary areas for development”.

In particular, the report says that “disadvantaged students have not been well served by the academy”.

Again the report acknowledges that the achievement and attendance of this group of students is improving, but “it is too soon to say how well these improvements will be sustained”.

Behaviour and Safety of Pupils: The report says that at Robert Smyth “students’ attitude to learning are not consistently positive”.

Inspectors said students too quickly become “disengaged” from their learning, particularly where teaching was weak.

But inspectors added that behaviour was good and pupils were respectful, adding “the school’s work to keep pupils safe and secure is good”.

Quality of teaching: Inspectors said there was “too much variation in teaching quality across the academy”.

The quality of written feedback teachers give to pupils also varies too much, inspectors reported.

But the report also highlights the fact that there is both good and outstanding teaching at the academy.

Teachers’ subject knowledge is very good, the report says, and it stressed that teachers are “very committed to their students”.

Achievement of pupils: Students under-achieved in English in 2013 and 2014, the Ofsted report says.

However, academy data shows “improvements in progress in this subject”, according to the inspectors.

The achievement of disadvantaged students was “unacceptably low” at Robert Smyth inspectors say.

However, academy data showed that progress of this group was also on the up.

The report highlights that students in maths, music and most science subjects achieve well.

Students perform much better than their peers nationally in these three areas, inspectors said.

In her letter to parents, principal Sue Jones said: “Given the timing of this inspection, only 18 months since the last and without the 2015 GCSE results as evidence of improved outcomes in English, our overall outcome of ‘requiring improvement’ did not come as a surprise.”

But she assured the school’s parents that “the significant work of staff, students and governors is acknowledged to be having a direct impact on improved student outcomes”.

Positives within the report for the academy

The 450-strong sixth-form at Robert Smyth Academy has been praised by Ofsted inspectors.

Inspectors who visited the school last month said the sixth-form is “good”, meaning it prepares pupils well for the next stage of their education, training or employment.

The Ofsted team said achievement in the sixth form is good overall and progress by students was better than the national average.

Very good progress was made in several subject areas in particular, including mathematics, business studies and economics, music and music technology.

“Students spoke very highly of the quality of academic support they receive,” the Ofsted report said.

“Students interviewed were unanimous in their praise of the sixth form centre manager.”

Students also benefit from a thorough programme of guidance when choosing their next step after Robert Smyth, the inspectors said.

The proportion of students who left the academy’s sixth form in 2014 and are not in education, employment or training is very low.

The report also mentioned five other strengths.

These included positive feedback for the leadership team, specific subject groups and staff members in general.

The five areas are:

The principal and vice-principal, both appointed at the start of this academic year, have accurately identified areas for improvement related to student achievement and are addressing them effectively. Consequently, all groups of students are now making better progress.

Leaders are ensuring that academic data, particularly that relating to students’ achievement, is more accurate than it has been in previous years.

Students generally make very good progress in mathematics, music and most science subjects.

Students feel safe, are polite to each other and to adults, take pride in their appearance and conduct themselves well around the campus.

Many members of staff make valuable contributions to the academy’s extra-curricular programme, particularly in performing arts and sport.