Academy not doing enough to help children struggling to read

Pupils at a Liverpool high school who are struggling to read are not receiving the amount of help they need to improve according to inspectors.

The Academy of St Francis of Assisi has been told the Kensington school requires improvement after an assessment by Ofsted officials in April. While it was acknowledged the school “wants the best for pupils” a series of shortcomings have been identified in how learning is delivered.

Jo Leech, headteacher, said the school was “disappointed” with the findings but plans were in motion to turn fortunes around.

In its two-day observation of the school, officials said the Academy – which has more than 900 students between 11 and 16 – is designing a curriculum to enable the best for pupils. However, in several subjects, this remains at an early stage meaning “some pupils do not build a secure body of knowledge in each subject”.

A report issued by Ofsted said, “They do not achieve as well as they should.”

A “period of turbulence” in staffing was already highlighted, with leadership positions filled of late. It was said this “slowed improvements to the quality of education at the school” but were now “better equipped to offer appropriate support and challenge”.

Pupil achievement was described as “variable” with learning not building securely over time despite changes to knowledge being introduced in a way that is beneficial to students. This included checking what has been learned and introducing new information in a logical order.

Ofsted officials praised the identification of the additional needs of special educational needs (SEND) pupils but said some staff do not adapt the delivery of the curriculum well enough which can hinder learning. It added: “The school is in the early stages of providing support for those pupils who struggle with reading.

“Staff identify gaps in the reading knowledge of Year 7 pupils. These pupils benefit from appropriate support to help them to read well. However, this is not the case for pupils in other year groups, including those in Key Stage 4.

“This affects how well these pupils access the curriculum and limits how well they learn.”

Despite a “well-coordinated approach” to behaviour management, officials identified how some pupils “do not have positive attitudes towards their education” and “do not behave well.” While attendance rates have been seen to improve, too many students, including those considered as vulnerable, do not attend as regularly as they should.

The report said, “The school has suitable processes in place to address low attendance and unacceptable conduct. These are beginning to take effect.”

Responding to the findings, Ms Leech said, “At the Academy of St Francis of Assisi, we are committed to supporting every one of our students to achieve their fullest potential and enhance educational experiences. While we are disappointed with the wording of the judgement, we accept that this is where we are as a school, and plans were already in motion to address this, which Ofsted recognised and agreed with.

“Despite the overall outcome, the report identified many strengths, including our work on the Personal Development of our students, an area in which we were judged as Good. We acknowledge that the overall outcome may be disheartening; however, we are confident that we can build upon the strong foundations we have already laid over the last 18 months and continue to foster a learning environment for our students to thrive.”

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