Wigan school plan "not fit for purpose" say inspectors

CEO of Community First Academy Trust Sue Darbyshire - the new leadership team at Rose Bridge Academy
CEO of Community First Academy Trust Sue Darbyshire - the new leadership team at Rose Bridge Academy

A Wigan secondary school has once again been severely criticised by inspectors and is not making progress months after a damning report.

Ofsted inspectors who visited Rose Bridge Academy, which is in special measures, said it is still not doing enough to tackle the serious problems previously identified there.

The report described the improvement plan at the Ince school and the ways the Trust in charge there is trying to turn things around as “not fit for purpose”.

In addition, leaders and management are not taking effective action towards guiding the Holt Street academy out of special measures status.

Massive changes have been afoot at Rose Bridge throughout this year since Ofsted gave the previous regime there a critical mauling in a January report.

The Community First Academy Trust (CFAT), which runs the school, acknowledged standards were still not good enough and frankly described the problems hindering it from moving forward.

CFAT has agreed a partnership with The Dean Trust, which runs the former Abraham Guest Academy in Wigan, which has installed experienced head Barry Bridden to replace interim principal Suzaznne Pountain as well as other members of the senior leadership team.

However, the school has also battled teacher shortages with vacant posts not filled and Ofsted recommending no more newly-qualified employees should be taken on.

Ofsted’s report once again did not hold back on the criticisms following the January review outlining massive shortcomings in governance, leadership, teaching quality and pupil behaviour.

The inspectors acknowledged the changes at the top table have “given new purpose to the school’s work and started to rebuild the confidence of staff and pupils”, with better morale among teachers and expectations being raised around the building.

However, changes are still yet to be fully embedded and some pupils have resisted the stricter emphasis on discipline, though the report said some have also recognised how that helps them learn.

CFAT’s plans of action, however, came in for severe criticism as they “lack sharpness” and still gives “a potential benchmark of unacceptably poor achievement”.

Older pupils about to leave the school have not received enough attention and this year’s GCSE results are likely to be as poor as those achieved by recent cohorts, Ofsted said.

The inspectors also found concerning breakdowns of communication between school and Trust, with documents not going to Ofsted in time and CFAT failing to act swiftly and decisively to tackle Rose Bridge’s problems.

Ofsted also said teaching quality was “highly inconsistent” although it is getting better with moves to tackle poor behaviour in class and improvements to assessments.

Pupils are more punctual and are now expected to meet higher standards for uniform and bringing a school bag, although too many children are still turning up late.

However, disadvantaged pupils’ attendance has declined over the school year compared to their peers and inspectors also heard bad language in PE lessons and outside exam halls.

CFAT said Ofsted had identified progress was being made but recognised there is a lot more to do.

The Trust’s CEO Sue Darbyshire said: “A great deal has happened over the last few months at Rose Bridge Academy.

“I have been proud of how staff and students have both accepted the challenges and grasped the opportunities that they have faced since our Ofsted inspection earlier this academic year.

“The result, as the report states, is progress has been made.

“I am, however, acutely aware that improvements need to be sustainable, embedded and long-lasting.

“We were, unfortunately, unable to secure sufficient appointments with the experience and expertise to build on our recent progress.

“This, coupled with some unexpected long-term staff absences, has meant that we have had to make some important decisions to ensure that our students receive the quality of education that they deserve.

“We are in discussions with The Dean Trust about the long-term future of Rose Bridge.

“We have also introduced an interim Academy Management Committee (AMC) to temporarily take on the responsibilities of our governing body.

“This is a smaller group of experienced educationalists who can help provide greater clarity, guidance and challenge during periods of rapid improvement.

“The trustees and I have acted quickly as these are important steps to ensure that Rose Bridge Academy to quickly reaches the high expectations that our community and students expect and deserve.”