Hebburn school-turned-academy is marked down by Ofsted inspectors

St Joseph's RC Academy staff protested last June over proposals to cut jobs and increase working hours. St Joseph's, below, became an academy two years ago.
St Joseph's RC Academy staff protested last June over proposals to cut jobs and increase working hours. St Joseph's, below, became an academy two years ago.

A South Tyneside school which controversially became an academy two years ago has been downgraded in its first Ofsted report since the switch, it has emerged.

On the last occasion St Joseph’s RC Academy in Mill Lane, Hebburn, was visited by Government education inspectors in 2013 it emerged with the top “outstanding” status.

Coun John McCabe says becoming an academy was a retrograde step for St Joseph's.

Coun John McCabe says becoming an academy was a retrograde step for St Joseph's.

But when inspectors returned last month for the first Ofsted visit since its move to academy status, they deemed it “good” rather than “outstanding”.

It follows a challenging year for the school, which saw staff strike over plans to cut jobs and increase working hours last summer.

Coun John McCabe, a former foundation governor at the school for almost a decade, had fiercely opposed the move to academy status back in 2013.

He said the switch had “undermined” staff morale.

Becoming an academy was a retrograde step

Coun John McCabe

But Terence Carney, the school’s head of governors, says the commitment and achievement of pupils remains outstanding – and insists the academy switch remains the right move.

Coun McCabe, who represents Hebburn South for Labour, said: “There is a harder inspection regime now but, if you undermine staff morale that doesn’t augment the process for education, and education in my view is the most fundamental thing.

“We have to create an environment where children are educated so that they become a better person in life.

“The whole process should be about betterment and I think becoming an academy was a retrograde step.

“I think as a direct consequence of that, it has undermined staff morale, it has undermined the teaching process and undermined the long-standing ethos of the school, and it must be quickly grasped that you don’t have to have an academy to have a successful school.”

Mr Carney said: “The most important thing, the consistent thing, is that the commitment and achievement and behaviour of our children remains outstanding.

“It is a different regime for all schools and academies.

“The Government now sets more rigorous standards than it did before, when we received the outstanding mark from Ofsted. I don’t believe the switch to academy status has affected our report.”

In the latest Ofsted report, inspectors deemed the school “good” in five categories, including leadership and management and quality of teaching, and “outstanding” in one further category – the behaviour and safety of pupils.

They found that headteacher Frank O’Neil had a “clear vision of just how successful the academy can be” and that all staff share “high ambitions”.

But the report also outlines the reasons why the academy is not yet considered “outstanding”, saying: “Opportunities are sometimes missed to add to parents’ confidence in the improving performance of the academy.

“Teachers’ marking does not always make sure students are clear about what they have achieved well and provide clear steps for improvement and increased level of challenge.”

The report also says “the imaginative and inspiring approaches to teaching that exist in the academy are not shared widely enough”.

The fall in attainment in the school’s 2014 GCSE results is also highlighted in the report, which is available to read at www.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspection-report/provider/ELS/139878