Mocksted Report 2016
Ditton Park Academy, Slough
NET review, 13-14 January 2016
The reviewer spent two days in school. In total 12 part-lessons were observed, six of them jointly-observed with members of the leadership team. Meetings were held with senior and middle leaders, with the chair of governors, and with a group of students. The reviewer attended an assembly and an academic mentoring session, and observed and talked with students around the academy. The reviewer examined academy documents including information on students’ current achievement and their behaviour and attendance, the quality of teaching, the academy’s review of its own performance, its plans for improvement and how the academy keeps students safe.
Outcomes for students are likely to be judged as good or outstanding:
- The ability profile of students when they join the school in Year 7 appears to be broadly average
- Students’ progress in Year 7 and Year 8 appears to be at least good, and may be outstanding. Robust moderation procedures, both internally and externally verified, make sure that teachers’ judgements about students’ achievement are accurate.
- The proportions of students in Year 7 in 2014/15 making 2-sub-levels of progress in English and maths were above national figures for expected progress. The proportions making 3 sub-levels of progress were above national figures for more than expected progress in maths and slightly above national figures in English. This represents outstanding progress
- The picture for Year 7 and 8 students’ progress this academic year is less clear, since at this relatively early stage in the year, most students are described as broadly on track to meet their end of year target
- There seem to be no significant differences in rates of progress for DSEN students, more-able students, EAL students, boys / girls, and different ethnic groups.
- Pupil premium funding is spent appropriately. Disadvantaged students make similar progress to others in the academy
- The development of students’ communication skills is very good. They are able to talk articulately about their learning, although some opportunities are missed in lessons for students to develop this further. Reading is promoted effectively in ‘Drop Everything and Read’ sessions. Leaders might consider how to monitor pupils’ reading, and ensure books are sufficiently challenging
- The work in in students’ books indicates that progress over time is at least good, and is in many cases outstanding.
Teaching, learning and assessment are likely to be judged as good or outstanding:
- Teachers have excellent subject knowledge. Their planning is detailed, and includes differentiated learning outcomes and/or tasks to take into account the differing abilities of students
- Most teachers’ marking is detailed, frequent and diagnostic. The academy marking policy (“Think Pink, Go Green”) is applied by most teachers, and students say they find it useful. As a result, students are clear on how to improve their performance, and they routinely respond to teachers’ marking
- Teachers have high expectations of students’ work rate and behaviour, and they have high academic expectations
- Relationships between teachers and students are excellent. Students feel they are well known as individuals by all staff
- Homework is set regularly, and is often matched to students’ abilities. Students say they spend a considerable time on it, but that it is useful and helps their learning
- In several observed lessons there was evidence, from students’ books and from their understanding of topics, that the quality of teaching over time was at least good and sometimes outstanding
- The progress made by students in these observed lessons, however, was not always so positive. There were different reasons for this, including ICT problems, some unhelpful student attitudes, over-long starters leading to a lack of pace and a lack of challenge for more able students. Although Ofsted do not judge individual lessons, if their judgement is on the cusp of good and outstanding, observations like this might depress the eventual judgement.
Students’ personal development, behaviour and welfare is likely to be judged as outstanding:
- The behaviour of students is outstanding. Their conduct around the site is exemplary, both towards adults and each other. They move safely around the narrow corridors and staircases showing care and respect for others. They look smart, and wear their uniforms with pride.
- In almost all cases students have very positive attitudes to learning. Misbehaviour in lessons is very rare. Students try hard and want to do well. They are confident and self-assured learners who can talk enthusiastically about their learning. They told the reviewer that they are very proud of their academy, and enjoy the sense that they are pioneers who are part of a brand new school.
- Students feel totally safe in the academy. They have been taught about bullying, but say it is almost unknown in the academy, and if it did happen it would be stopped if they told an adult. Racism is unknown in the academy. Different groups get on very well together. Students have a good understanding of how to stay safe online.
- In a recent survey, 100% of parents felt the academy keeps their child safe, and deals effectively with unacceptable behaviour. In a student survey, the very large majority of students reported they feel safe at school, and that behaviour is good.
- Safeguarding is a high priority in the academy. Procedures to keep vulnerable students safe are robust. The academy site is safe and secure.
- Students’ personal development is enhanced by a wide range of extra-curricular clubs and activities available to them, including first aid, photography, debates, and a range of sports and subject clubs. They enjoy taking on responsibilities such as membership of the school council, acting as subject ambassadors and PE prefects
- Students’ attendance, at around 96%, is high compared to national average figures. There appear to be no significant differences in the attendance rates of different groups of students.
Leadership and management are likely to be judged as good / outstanding:
- The academy benefits from the strong and clear-sighted leadership of the principal and the leadership team. There is a clear vision of what this newly-established free school is aiming to achieve, which is shared by all members of the academy
- The academy’s curriculum is well suited to students’ needs and abilities, and has a number of distinctive features: the importance of thinking skills, the flexibility made possible by Wednesday afternoon’s enrichment sessions, and the time allocated to core subjects and PE
- The management of teachers’ performance is very effective. The academy’s appraisal is based firmly on student progress, and leaders make regular checks on the quality of teaching. In lessons which were jointly observed with the reviewer, academy leaders were accurate and perceptive in their judgements.
- Highly effective arrangements are in place for teachers to share good and outstanding practice.
- Students’ progress is checked regularly, and effective help is quickly given if students fall behind. Good use is made of student performance data, with one teacher explaining the approach to the reviewer as ”It’s about names not numbers”
- Middle leaders carry out their roles effectively, and with a strong sense of collaboration and shared purpose. Provision for special needs is well organised, although data on the progress of these pupils was not provided by the SENCO
- Funding from the pupil premium is spent appropriately, and appears effective
- Parents are very positive and supportive of the academy and its leaders
- All safeguarding procedures are robust and meet statutory requirements. Some minor revisions are needed to the single central record of appointments
- The academy successfully ensures all students, from whatever background, have an equal chance to be successful. The academy promotes British values successfully, and takes effective steps to prevent radicalisation and extremism
- The chair of governors is extremely well informed about the academy, its strengths, and its areas for improvement. He can provide good example of how governors have challenged academy leader to initiate further improvements
- Plans to improve the academy concentrate on the right areas. They focus more on the necessary task of forward planning. Short-term plans for the current academic year do not contain detailed actions or specific and measurable success criteria
- The academy’s self-evaluation is accurate, but is currently rather descriptive. It does not give succinct evidence of student outcomes, particularly regarding their academic progress
- Some aspects of the academy’s website need updating. There is nothing on the impact of pupil premium spending. The safeguarding policy is not the most recent one (dated Jan 2014) and names the designated safeguarding lead incorrectly. The behaviour policy is dated Dec 2013, and is overdue for review.
I was recently asked by the Principal to carry out a review of Ditton Park Academy. My aim was to provide an independent view of how well the academy is doing: what it is doing well, what it needs to improve, and how it might be judged by Ofsted. I spent two days in school on 13 and 14 January 2016. I observed a number of lessons, looked at pupils’ work, held meetings with academy staff, and spoke with students.
I found that Ditton Park is most likely to be judged to be good or outstanding.
Student outcomes are likely to be judged good or outstanding. Students are making above average progress in English and mathematics. All groups of students achieve equally well.
The quality of teaching is high. Teachers plan their lessons carefully, and consider how to cater for students of different abilities. Most teachers’ marking is frequent and detailed, and pupils respond well to this marking. Homework is used well to help pupils learn on their own. Relationships between teachers and students are warm and respectful. Teacher know students very well as individuals.
Students’ personal development, behaviour and welfare are likely to be judged as outstanding. Pupils behave exceptionally well both in lessons and around the academy. They are very proud of their academy, enjoy learning, and want to succeed. They feel totally safe in the academy. Bullying and racism are almost unknown. Students’ attendance is high. Their personal development is promoted very well by a wide range of activities and responsibilities.
Leadership is likely to be judged as good or outstanding. The academy has got off to an excellent start. It benefits from the strong and clear-sighted leadership of the principal and the leadership team. They have a very accurate view of the academy’s strengths and areas for development, and good plans to improve the academy further. They make regular checks on the quality of teaching, and make sure that if any students fall behind, effective help is quickly provided.
There are, however, still some areas for the academy to improve. Not all teachers mark work as well as the best teachers do. And sometimes teachers do not make sure that the work for their most able students is always hard enough.
I wish the academy, and its students, all the best in the future.