Downham Academy declared ‘inadequate’ in critical Ofsted report

Downham Market Academy.
Downham Market Academy.

A West Norfolk secondary school has been deemed “inadequate” in a report that criticised its management and attainment levels.

Ofsted inspectors have accused Downham Academy managers and governors of failing to do what was necessary to improve standards.

The body which currently oversees the school says it is disappointed by the verdict, but accepts the findings.

The latest report follows a two-day assessment in late April.

The school had been deemed to require improvement following its last full inspection in 2015.

But the new report, which was published on Wednesday, said it now needs to be placed in special measures.

It said: “Since the last inspection, leaders and governors have failed to take the necessary action to improve the school.”

It said governors had failed to hold management to account for poor results, accepting “inaccurate information too readily”, and claimed the school had received “little effective support” until recently from its sponsoring trust.

Discussions between the current sponsor, the Eastern Multi-Academy Trust (EMAT), and the Department of Education about finding a new sponsor are said to be at an advanced stage. It is expected that a new sponsor will be in place by this autumn.

The report added: “The progress pupils make in a number of key subject areas, including English, science, humanities and mathematics, is inadequate.

“Attendance remains low. A high proportion of pupils do not attend school often enough. This shows no sign of improvement.”

It also warned a “significant minority” of students behaved poorly in lessons, disrupting learning, while improvement plans did not go far enough.

But inspectors did praise the work of the academy’s sixth form, describing it as a “beacon”, as well as its pastoral care.

EMAT chief executive Dr Duncan Bradley said: “Clearly, we are very disappointed with the outcome but accept the report in full and agree significant improvement is required.

“Despite the overall grading, we are encouraged by Ofsted’s recognition of a number of strengths, most notably the sixth form, as well as safeguarding and pastoral support across the academy.

“To address the concerns with leadership, progress and attainment in the academy, we implemented a rapid improvement plan earlier this year, which included the appointment of an interim principal, and Ofsted has recognised this is beginning to have an impact.

“We will work closely with the new trust, who will take over much of the operational leadership of the academy from September, to provide stability for pupils and staff during this intervening period.”