'Fresh start' for South Shields school judged inadequate by Ofsted after reopening as a new academy

A South Shields school has heralded a “fresh start” and has “high hopes for the future” after reopening as an academy.

As of this month (September 2022), Ashley Primary School has reopened as Ashley Academy, and is now under the governance of the WISE Academies partnership which also oversees Bexhill, Town End, North View and Hasting Hill academies in Sunderland.

In October 2021 the school was deemed to be inadequate following an inspection by Ofsted, mainly due to an issue with safeguarding, which inspectors said was “not good enough” due to checks on safeguarding arrangements not being rigorous enough and staff having “not completed the necessary safeguarding training”.

However, after reopening as an academy, including new uniforms, name and logo, the school’s headteacher Denise Todd is confident of a prosperous future thanks to the support and guidance provided by the new partnership.

She said: “When the school was given an inadequate judgement it was really devastating for the whole community. It was a safeguarding issue around training and record keeping which was picked up as the main focus for the report.

"When a school is given this judgement it’s put forward by the Department for Education to become part of the governance of an academy trust. WISE Academies came forward and we both liked what we saw.

"WISE have been providing fantastic support for the school since January.

"They’ve helped with the safeguarding policy, although the issues raised had already been put right before WISE became involved. This really is a fresh start for the school and the children who all look really smart in their new uniform.

Zoe Carr, chief executive officer of WISE Academies (left) and Ashley Academy headteacher Denise Todd alongside children in their new school uniform.

"We have a new name, uniform and logo which represents a new beginning and hopefully we won’t be bogged down by the previous judgement.”

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One of the key areas of support provided by WISE has been the development of the school’s curriculum, which had been previously described by Ofsted inspectors as lacking clarity in “what pupils should learn and when” with learning not logically sequenced.

Mrs Todd added: “The support with developing our curriculum has been amazing, particularly working with middle leaders. The curriculum now has clear end points in the development of knowledge and retention of facts, as well as clearly sequenced continuity in developing the children’s learning.

Ashley Academy headteacher Denise Todd working with pupils.

"WISE have also provided a whole range of professional development opportunities for staff.”

While the school reopened as an academy in September, they did receive a follow-up monitoring visit from Ofsted in April which highlighted how the new partnership was already starting to bear fruit.

Lead inspector Gill Wild said: “Leaders, in consultation with WISE Academies, have identified key areas in the curriculum for improvement. Science, History, Geography and Art have all been evaluated, with new plans now in place.

"These subjects now have well-sequenced knowledge content so that pupils can start to build a secure bank of knowledge as they move through the school.

Pupils are keen to ask questions at the recently reopened academy.

"The use of new resources in Science, History and Geography is having a positive impact on outcomes for pupils.”

On the identified issues relating to safeguarding, Mrs Wild added: “This has been transformed in the school. Leaders have introduced rigorous systems to ensure all staff receive updated training, know procedures and are confident in their safeguarding duties.”

Mrs Todd is now confident the school can continue its journey of improvement which will result in a improved Ofsted judgement for the academy when it will receive a full Section 5 Ofsted inspection in the third year after opening.

She said: “This has actually been a really positive experience and parents have been very supportive. We feel like we’ve been part of the journey rather than having something imposed on us.

"There’s now a lot of positivity around the school and I can already see a big difference in the last six months. I’m confident we will have a much improved judgement in our next inspection.

"Out of something awful, there really has been a big positive.”

Ashley Academy pupils working on their English and Maths with headteacher Denise Todd.

WISE Academies chief executive officer Zoe Carr added: "I’m absolutely delighted to welcome Ashley Academy into WISE Academies. Our partnership has been warmly received by parents and pupils. Staff have already been working together for a number of months and have formed excellent relationships. We have all the ingredients for a successful future together.

“At WISE Academies we strive for educational excellence in all of our academies. All at Ashley share this same passion and determination so we are already united in our ambition for the school".

Ashley Academy headteacher Denise Todd in-front of the recently designed new sign displaying the school's new name