‘Inadequate’ school caned by inspectors

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A DUNSTABLE school, formerly well-known for its top class teaching, has been deemed ‘inadequate’ by education watchdog Ofsted.

Ashton Middle School in High Street North was given ‘notice to improve’ following its latest inspection.

The overall effectiveness of the Church of England school was described as inadequate and the inspectors said the quality of learning for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities and their progress was not of an acceptable standard.

The use of assessment to support learning and the leadership of management of teaching and learning were also both given the lowest grade.

The report reads: “...this school requires significant improvement because it is performing significantly less well than in all the circumstances it could reasonably be expected to perform. The school is therefore given a notice to improve.

“Significant improvement is required in relation to the progress of pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities, and the use of assessment to provide individual pupils with appropriate guidance, challenge and support.”

The inspectors were impressed by student attendance and behaviour, as well as their eagerness to learn, but the quality of learning was questioned.

The chief inspector said: “...the quality of learning remains inconsistent because not all staff have addressed, or linked, the issues of teacher assessment and pupils’ engagement, raised at the previous inspection in 2008 when the school was judged satisfactory.

“Too many staff prepare the same work for pupils at different stages in their learning. As a result, the comparatively small group of pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities make inadequate progress.”

Inspectors have told staff to improve by ensuring that all groups of pupils make good or better progress, and ensuring that the impact of leadership and management on teaching, learning and achievement is increased.

Headteacher Nick Sharpe yesterday told the Gazette that the school, which has 608 students and was the home of Dunstable Grammar School from 1888 to 1971, is already working towards improvement.

He said: “Following the inspection the staff and governors, together with the local authority and the Diocese of St Albans, immediately started work on a robust action plan to make the improvements identified. This is now in place and everyone involved is working hard to ensure its success.

“We took a number of positives from the inspection and it was pleasing to see that Ofsted recognised the excellent attendance and good behaviour of our students as well as the good support for healthier lifestyles and contributions to the wider community that the school offers.

“We pride ourselves on the support and encouragement that we offer students within the school and this has led to the continuation of their spiritual, moral, social and culture development – something that is greatly appreciated by parents.

“We know that there is still a job to do within the school and we are focusing our attention on making sure that pupils receive the best possible education. For that reason, we are committed to making the required improvements as a matter of urgency.”