Swindon's newest secondary school branded 'inadequate' after Ofsted inspection

By Jamie Hill - 8 November 2023


The Deanery CE Academy in Wichelstowe has been judged to be 'inadequate' by an Ofsted inspection which was carried out on 12 and 13 September.

Following the inspection the Chief Inspector of Ofsted is of the opinion that 'this school requires special measures because it is failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education and the persons responsible for leading, managing or governing the school are not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvement in the school.'

At the time of the school's first ever inspection Dan Neal was the head teacher at The Deanery but he has since tendered his resignation during Half Term citing commuting distance as the reason, meaning the school has now had four different headteachers since it opened five years ago in 2019. The interim headteacher is now Kelly Osborne-James.

The report said: "Pupils at this school do not receive an acceptable standard of education. Gaps in the curriculum and frequent staff changes mean that pupils do not learn well enough over time. Pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) do not have their needs understood and met.   

"Pupils are keen to do well. They value the extra-curricular opportunities that are on offer, but they hope to be given more choice of clubs and visits in the future.   

"Classrooms are calm places to learn, and pupils move around the school safely. Bullying does occur at this school, but it is not widespread, and pupils will report it to adults, who deal with it quickly. The school recognises that there is more to be done to reduce incidents of poor behaviour further. Pupils feel safe in school. However, pupils do not attend school regularly enough. 

"Parents and carers do not feel listened to and communicated with. This has led to a feeling of mistrust and being ‘let down’ by the school. The trust has an overgenerous view of the school’s strengths and weaknesses. This means that not enough has been done quickly enough for the school to improve.

"The curriculum is not ambitious for pupils. The school curriculum follows the national curriculum. However, it does not set out precisely what pupils will learn and when in each subject. This means that pupils learn disjointed topics that do not build on what they already know. Cover staff and non-specialists teach a high proportion of the lessons in this school. When pupils are not taught by the same person over a series of lessons, content is sometimes repeated or missed. This means that pupils studying the same subject but in different classes will learn different things. Pupils have gaps in what they know and can do. 

"The school does not accurately understand the needs of pupils with SEND. This means that teachers cannot provide the adaptations that pupils need order to learn. Pupils who do not read as well as their peers are not supported to catch up. Even so, pupils with an education, health and care plan do have their basic requirements met.   School attendance is improving. The school is beginning to understand the barriers that pupils face. However, too many pupils do not attend the school regularly. Even though the school has made improvements, expectations for attendance and punctuality are still not high enough. 

"The new ‘Values in Practice’ curriculum sets out how the school will support pupils’ personal development. Most pupils have not experienced this curriculum yet. Pupils have not had opportunities to learn about and discuss discrimination and fundamental British values. Without this experience, pupils do not always understand that homophobic or racist comments are unacceptable. Not all pupils receive age-appropriate relationships and sex education. This means that pupils are not well prepared for life in modern Britain. 

"Pupils have not had opportunities to learn about careers or to experience the world of work. Pupils do not receive impartial advice about further education or apprenticeships. This means that pupils cannot make informed decisions about their future. 

"There have been frequent changes in leadership since the school opened in 2019. The current school leadership structure is new and interim. Vacancies for teachers are often filled with temporary staff on a long-term basis. The trust understands that improvements are needed. However, it does not appreciate the scale of change needed to secure an acceptable quality of education for pupils. Improvement planning does not identify clear actions to take and by when.   

"The school and the trust do not communicate well with parents. This has led to a sense of disappointment and mistrust. Staff want the school to be successful, but they do not always feel listened to by leaders. Repeated changes in systems and procedures, as well as staff vacancies, increase workload.   

"The trust understands its statutory responsibilities, such as for safeguarding and finance. However, systems are not in place to accurately monitor and improve the quality of education. For example, pupil premium funding is not overseen closely and so is not used to support disadvantaged pupils effectively. The trust is committed to improving pupils’ experiences. Even so, changes are being made too slowly. 

In summary the report said: "The curriculum is not ambitious enough for pupils. Component knowledge has not been clearly identified and sequenced. This means that pupils’ experience of the curriculum is disjointed. The school and the trust must ensure that the curriculum sets out in each subject exactly what pupils will learn and when, so that pupils build knowledge and skills over time.

"The school does not accurately identify the needs of pupils with SEND. This means that adults cannot provide the adaptations that these pupils need. The school and the trust must provide systems for accurately identifying and communicating pupils’ needs, so that all staff can support pupils to know, remember and do more over time.

"Pupils do not attend school regularly. This means that many pupils miss out on educational experiences. The school and the trust must raise expectations of school attendance and ensure that rapid support is provided for those pupils with low attendance.

"The curriculum and wider enrichment experiences do not adequately support pupils’ personal development. This means that pupils have gaps in their knowledge. The school and the trust should ensure that the curriculum includes age-appropriate opportunities to learn about relationships and sex education, protected characteristics and fundamental British values. All pupils should receive this curriculum.

"The school has not provided careers information, education, advice and guidance to pupils. This means that pupils are not prepared for their future working life. The school must provide pupils in Years 8 to 11 with meaningful experiences of the world of work. The trust must meet the requirements of the provider access legislation. 

"The trust has not identified and tackled the failings at the school. As a result, pupils are not receiving an adequate education. The trust should ensure that leadership capacity and expertise are quickly developed."

"Having considered the evidence, we strongly recommend that the school does not seek to appoint early career teachers." 

The Deanery has been approached for comment.


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