'Incensed' leaders at Dunstable school hit back at Ofsted after receiving 'Requires Improvement' rating

All Saints Academy
All Saints Academy

"Incensed" leaders at a Dunstable secondary school launched a complaint against Ofsted after receiving a critical inspection report.

All Saints Academy in Houghton Road was rated "Requires Improvement" by the education watchdog in its report released last week.

But, the school succeeded in overturning some of its sub-category ratings following a six-week complaint overseen by the Ofsted Eastern regional director.

It has subsequently been rated "Good" in the sub-categories of leadership and its sixth form provision.

Principal Liz Furber took aim at the background of two inspectors from the original inspection, who were both headteachers of all-girls schools.

She said: "It is inconceivable that we had an inspection team that we perceive did not understand our context, comprising two headteachers from all girls’ selective schools and no practising [mixed school] headteachers.

"It comes as no surprise that we feel they had little comprehension of how boys’ behaviour changes the classroom dynamics and they went on to suggest our curriculum was too aspirational for our students!"

In its inspection report, Ofsted acknowledged improvements had been made since the previous full inspection in January 2017. But, the Ofsted inspectors described All Saints Academy's leadership team as "overgenerous" in its view of the school's progress.

The report stated: "Inspection evidence does not support leaders’ view that provision overall is now good.

"Although standards at All Saints Academy are improving, pupils are not yet making good progress in key subjects. The quality of teaching, learning and assessment varies too widely."

The report stated that incidents of long-term absence and pupil behaviour were still too high, but also added that school leaders were passionate about increasing pupils' opportunities and that pupils were also well cared for.

It went on: "In some subjects, most notably in English, pupils’ progress has improved. However, in 2018 pupils’ progress in mathematics and modern foreign languages was in the bottom 20% of schools nationally.

"Pupils continue to make less progress than they should because there is too much variability in the quality of teaching, learning and assessment, including in the EBacc subjects. Boys’ progress is weaker than it should be. It is below that of girls and below the national average."

In response to these criticisms, headteacher Mrs Furber stated: "We do put a large percentage of students through the EBacc and ensure the majority study a modern foreign language.

"Students do not always achieve top grades in French or Spanish, but they will gain confidence that they can learn a language and travel the world. Since when did the ability to secure top grades become the pre-requisite to the curriculum offer?"

All Saints Academy is continuing its challenge to Ofsted over other alleged "discrepancies" within the report.

The school complained that the timing of the inspection - on the last two days before the June half-term - meant that inspectors could not see Year 11, 12 or 13 in lessons, which were the year groups that saw the Academy achieve the best Progress 8 outcomes of the four secondary schools in Dunstable in 2018.

The school argued this was inappropriate scheduling, made worse by inspectors observing cover lessons.

Chairman of Governors, David Fraser, added: "I am delighted that the leadership of Liz Furber and her team has been recognised in this report. If it hadn’t been for her tenacity, we would have accepted a report that didn’t do justice to the achievements of the past three years."