Staff and students at a Spalding school are celebrating after being rated Outstanding by inspectors in their first Ofsted inspection.
In the Ofsted report, released on 10th November, Springwell Spalding Alternative Academy was praised for its deep understanding of its pupils and ability to get the very best from them. The school opened in 2019 and caters for pupils who have been, or are at risk of being, excluded from mainstream school.
Inspectors reported that: “Staff at Springwell Alternative Academy make a difference to pupils’ lives. Pupils receive care, guidance and support in a warm and nurturing environment. Pupils who attend this school often have difficult previous school experiences, or have significant challenges in their lives. Staff understand this and have created a positive, supportive environment where pupils do well. There are kind, professional relationships between staff and pupils.”
They also highlighted the quality of the curriculum and teaching, stating: “The curriculum is carefully considered so that all pupils can maximise their learning whether they are at the school for a short period of time or longer… Pupils rapidly broaden their knowledge during their time here. The vast majority of pupils successfully reintegrate into a mainstream school or move on to suitable specialist provision. Year 11 pupils follow a highly personalised curriculum, which is broad and ambitious.”
The way Springwell Spalding engages pupils was also commended with inspectors reporting that: “Pupils enjoy attending this school. They value the opportunity to gain an education and benefit from the rich experiences offered to them, for example visiting authors, cooking meals to enjoy together and taking part in adventurous outdoor activities.”
Lisa Ashcroft-Day, Executive Principal at Springwell Spalding, said: “Since opening in 2019, the Springwell Spalding team has worked tirelessly to create something exceptional for our pupils and community. We’re incredibly proud to now have that recognised externally in this fantastic first Ofsted report.
“Our students often have had difficult experiences with education and we work hard to ensure that we turn that around when they come to us. We focus on developing a deep understanding of each student and giving them the support and compassion they need to thrive. We’re particularly proud that inspectors underlined our ‘positive regard for all’ approach and our high ambitions for our students. We want all our young people to have the skills and resources to move on to productive, successful lives and we’ll continue to work hard to make that happen.”
Mark Wilson, CEO at Wellspring Academy Trust, added: “Lisa and the team at Springwell Spalding have created something truly special. The school is warm, supportive, highly effective and provides its young people with the foundations they need for success. Inspectors were absolutely right to state that staff ‘make a difference to pupils’ lives.’ The Springwell Spalding team are changing lives every day and we’re all very proud to have them as part of the Wellspring community.”
Ofsted published its next report as part of its research review on 2nd February 2023. In “Finding the optimum,” the strengths and weaknesses of science in the schools inspected are evaluated, and a series of recommendations are made.
It’s worth noting that schools in England perform well above global averages in international comparison tests in science. Data from the 2019 ‘Trends in international mathematics and science study’ (TIMSS) shows that Year 5 pupils’ performance was relatively good, and broadly similar to that of pupils in 2015. However, there is concern that the status of science in some primary schools has remained at a lower level since national tests in science were removed in 2009, and that this has affected key stage 3 performance.
Findings related to primary schools
Science was taught weekly in most primary schools. However, in a few schools, pupils had less than one science lesson every week, and occasionally, pupils went for entire half terms without learning science – this is a concern.
Pupils took part in whole-class practical activities in a much larger proportion of lessons in primary schools than in secondary schools. Sometimes, practical activities covered too many aspects, and pupils were expected to learn too much disciplinary and substantive knowledge at once.
Teachers used stand-alone demonstrations of practical science in very few of the science lessons visited by inspectors. This is a concern, given that practical demonstrations have been shown to play an important role in helping pupils to learn science.
Timetabling remains an issue with insufficient time being allocated to enable all the knowledge in the National Curriculum to be covered properly which seems to result in schools focusing on substantive knowledge, at the expense of disciplinary knowledge.
Findings related to secondary schools
Many schools started teaching pupils GCSE content at some point during Year 9. However, in most cases, this did not lead to narrowing of the curriculum and topics were retained even though they are not assessed at GCSE.
There were some weaknesses in curriculum planning. At times, objectives were too broad. There was also sometimes a lack of time for pupils to practice new content before moving on.
Some schools recognised and checked prior learning at KS2, but in other schools, secondary subject leaders did not have a sufficiently clear understanding of what science pupils were expected to know from primary school.
In some school curriculums, disciplinary knowledge was not sufficiently well integrated with substantive content. It was treated as a stand-alone block or unit.
The picture the report presents will not reflect the reality of any individual school. Your school’s action plan for science should identify what your school is doing to develop its teaching of the subject which may, or may not, include some of the issues the report identifies.
What our Trust schools can learn from the report are the areas that Ofsted has identified as the most significant opportunities to improve the teaching of science. If they feature on your school’s action plan then, as a science network we’ll try to suggest ways that you might address them.
Staff and students at a Wellspring special school in Barnsley are celebrating after being rated Outstanding by Ofsted for the third consecutive time.
In its latest Ofsted report, released over the summer, Greenacre School on Keresforth Hill Road was praised for maintaining its high standard of education and working well with external professionals to ensure pupils get the right support and are well prepared for adulthood.
Inspectors reported that: “The mission to ‘nurture, empower and prepare’ pupils for life is at the heart of this welcoming and inclusive school. Relationships between pupils and staff are warm and nurturing. Leaders listen to pupils. They ensure pupils have a ‘voice and choice’ in their education.”
They also praised the school’s approach to behaviour, stating: “Pupils’ behaviour is exceptional. Highly proficient staff support pupils to manage their behaviour very well. There is a strong ethos of respect for others. They have excellent attitudes to learning. They feel safe and are very well looked after.”
The school’s approach to developing its curriculum and the calibre of its teachers were also highlighted with inspectors reporting that: “The curriculum meets the needs of the range of pupils very well. The ‘access’ curriculum strongly underpins learning across the whole curriculum. It is thoughtfully designed and planned. Pupils, particularly those with complex needs, can engage with learning and develop personally…Teachers are highly skilled. They know individual pupils very well. They check frequently the progress pupils make. They use this information to plan pupils’ next steps effectively.”
Sarah Wilson, Executive Principal at Greenacre School, said: “Greenacre is a wonderful school where staff go above and beyond every single day to ensure our pupils receive the highest quality education and care. Whilst the verdicts of our pupils and parents will always be our most important judgement, it is a great achievement to be rated Outstanding yet again by Ofsted, and we are very proud.
“As we look ahead, we are determined to build on our successes and continue to develop the services, resources and opportunities that we can offer Greenacre pupils. They deserve the very best and the best is what we are committed to providing.”
Mark Wilson, CEO at Wellspring Academy Trust, added: “We are very proud to have had Greenacre School as part of our school community for the last five years. It continues to go from strength to strength, and delivers the quality of education that all our children and young people should enjoy. Sarah and the Greenacre team set the standard for SEND education and ensure that the Barnsley community has an incredible local resource to support some of their most vulnerable residents.”
Established in 2012, Wellspring Academy Trust is a family of mainstream primary and secondary schools, and SEND and Alternative Provision settings operating across Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. Wellspring’s mantra is ‘We Make A Difference’ and it is committed to providing the best possible education and improving life chances for all its students. By sharing best practice, resources, and expertise, the Trust supports schools to deliver exceptional education and serve the communities in which its academies operate.
Earlier this year Ofsted began a programme of updates on a variety of curriculum areas designed to offer subject specific insights. These have been widely well received by curriculum leaders and have offered clarity on several topics that have traditionally courted controversy between leadership teams and Music teachers for many years. Below is a brief overview of some of the highlights that I hope will help to inform conversations in many of our schools going forward.
Schools are encouraged to design a curriculum that is suitable to the needs of their students whilst considering some key aspects. Firstly, leaders should decide what the appropriate content is for their learners before moving onto how effective delivery is achieved. Encouragingly, Ofsted outline that their main interest is in how the curriculum plans for students to get better at Music and to become more musical. Research has shown that success in Music can be hugely beneficial in improving students’ concentration, memory and overall academic achievement.
As part of this process leaders should consider the way the curriculum is taught to ensure students commit their learning to their long term memory and Ofsted encourage a ‘little and often’ approach which will help to reduce cognitive overload. In order to support students’ development of knowledge and skills over time it is desirable for them to improve gradually, consolidate learning and aim to produce a high quality response. Three key aspects work in tandem to allow this to happen:
Technical – Pupils consolidate small amounts of learning and gradually build on foundational knowledge. Learning occurs over a period of time across a number of units. E.g. a keyboard player may learn a piece of music by practicing a small amount slowly and gradually building this up over time.
Constructive – Students gain an understanding of the constructive elements of Music and how to apply these e.g. Do they know what a melody is and how to write one effectively?
Expressive – Once students have a good knowledge of the technical and constructive components, are they able to refine their work e.g. not only can they play a piece of music fluently but they can also perform it with a level of expression that matches its style and context.
It is expected that the expressive aspect of students’ musical responses would improve with a good grounding in the context of the style being studied however music making is much more important than music information.
Over the past 5 years, curriculum leaders have become increasingly aware of what this means. Initially we were encouraged to think about the ‘Three I’s,’ i.e. Intent, Implementation and Impact, however, a more nuanced approach is now being encouraged. It is thought that students benefit from around 90 hours of Music lessons during KS3; the same students are likely to have completed a similar number of lessons by Easter of Y7. With this in mind the Music curriculum needs to be carefully considered and, at times, leaders will need to take a ‘less is more’ approach. Traditionally many KS3 curriculums have consisted of a series of topics that bear little or no relation to one another in order to encourage students to learn a breadth of skills. Ofsted are clear that they now expect Music curriculums to encourage mastery and that topics taught should be relational. One eye opening comment comes in regard to instrumental learning – a student is more likely to master basic instrumental skills if they use the same instrument consistently across KS3 as opposed to a wide variety across numerous topics at a surface level. Further to this, leaders are encouraged to think carefully about the links between topics taught. The table below shows what would be considered a fairly typical KS3 curriculum a few years ago:
On the surface this presents as a wide ranging, broad curriculum that would support students’ cultural understanding. However, if we look in more depth, it becomes clear that there is little relationship between these topics, making it difficult for students to develop their technical and constructive skills. For example, in Spring of year 1 students work on their singing skills but there is little opportunity for them to develop these skills further in future units. Secondly, in term 1 of year 3, students are asked to compose a piece of film music using multi track software despite having no prior experience using music technology or any of the constructive knowledge required to compose effectively for film. This highlights the need for curriculum leaders to be able to explain the what, why and when of their curriculum i.e. how topics inter-relate and build on prior knowledge.
Over the past decade, in response to the advent of Progress 8 and staffing cuts, many schools have adopted a controversial approach to curriculum delivery in relation to many Performing Arts subjects. The introduction of the carousel where students have studied each subject for one or two half terms before moving to a different subject has had a damaging effect on Music education, particularly when considering KS4 numbers. Ofsted are clear that this approach is restrictive and negatively affects students’ ability to progress over time or significantly develop their technical abilities. Schools that adopt this approach will need to be very clear about how this implementation decision positively impacts students. ‘Drop down’ days or ‘Blocking’, where students study the subject for the whole day in isolation, are even more difficult to justify when they constitute the only means of curriculum delivery.
Other useful key points in brief
Musical culture: This is not confined to the music curriculum alone – aspects such as extra-curricular activities, workshops, trips, concerts and peripatetic instrumental lessons all contribute to the overall musical culture of the school and will be taken into account.
As outlined above, performances are a key aspect of a school’s musical culture – is sufficient time and support given to allow music departments to flourish? E.g. time in lieu when running an evening performance or appropriate opportunities for rehearsal time.
Assessment: Summative assessment should be carefully managed. Doing this half termly is likely to mean students are being re-assessed every 4 – 5 hours which is unlikely to be an effective use of time. Assessment should evidence long term learning.
Assessment evidence: Extensive book work or photos of students engaging in musical learning will not evidence musical ability – if staff feel this is useful information for them to assess then they are encouraged to do this but it is not deemed necessary.
Overall, this subject specific information for Music is extremely helpful in addressing many of the unknowns that both Curriculum leaders and SLTs have battled with for many years. There are a number of positive admissions that demonstrate an understanding of effective planning and delivery of the subject which I hope will empower Music staff going forward.
The full video is an hour long and can be found by searching for ‘Ofsted Music’ on YouTube or via the link below:
A Wellspring primary school in Leeds has received official confirmation of its incredible turnaround, with Ofsted inspectors now rating the school Outstanding after it was previously named Inadequate.
In Bramley Park Academy’s latest Ofsted report the school was described as ‘exceptional’ and received praise for its strong curriculum, pupils’ ‘exemplary’ behaviour, the range of extra-curricular experiences offered to pupils and more.
Inspectors reported that: “There are no limits to the ambition that leaders and staff have for them. Pupils enjoy coming to school and live and breathe the school’s vision to ‘believe, persevere and achieve’. Leaders have an unswerving commitment to serving pupils, families and the community. They believe that every pupil can achieve great things.” They highlighted pupils’ behaviour stating: “Behaviour in lessons and around school is exemplary. Pupils are polite and welcoming. They enjoy learning and are engaged and attentive in lessons.”
The curriculum was also praised with inspectors reporting that: “Leaders have developed a highly ambitious and impressive curriculum that begins in Nursery and continues to the end of Year 6. A well-planned sequence of learning is the bedrock for all learning…Pupils in key stage 2 make impressive progress in core subjects and have secure knowledge of what they are learning in the wider curriculum. The curriculum in early years is also impressive. Leaders have identified the end points they want children to reach and to prepare them for key stage 1. The children are confident and independent learners.”
Carrie Green, Executive Principal at Bramley Park Academy, said: “Everyone involved in Bramley Park Academy is absolutely thrilled with this report. The whole team has worked incredibly hard over the past four and half years to create a school which is, as the inspectors put it, ‘exceptional.’ Not only do we wrap all the children in love and care, we are ambitious for them and enable them to reach their full potential, and it is wonderful to have that recognised externally.
“Bramley Park Academy has been on a real journey since joining Wellspring Academy Trust in 2018. It has gone through a huge transformation and is now a school that parents and carers can have 100% confidence in and pupils adore attending. With the support of the Trust, we are providing the top quality, inspiring education that every child deserves.”
Mark Wilson, CEO at Wellspring Academy Trust, added: “Whilst Ofsted reports can only ever tell a fraction of the story about a school, this report is another important landmark in the transformational tale of Bramley Park Academy. Under Carrie Green’s superb leadership and her team’s commitment to constant improvement, Bramley Park has gone from strength to strength. The quality of education and care offered to every pupil, whatever their circumstances, is second to none and I am incredibly proud that Bramley Park Academy is part of our Wellspring family.”
A Barnsley primary is celebrating after receiving a coveted Outstanding rating from Ofsted.
In its latest Ofsted report, the school’s phenomenal success has been confirmed with inspectors praising staff for providing the very best education for its pupils, improving life chances, creating a caring, safe environment and delivering an ambitious curriculum.
Inspectors reported that: “The ‘Forest Promise’ of ‘Be the best that you can be,’ is lived and breathed by all in this community of excellence and achievement. An ethos of care and compassion runs through the school. Nobody is left behind. Staff share a relentless commitment to giving all pupils the very best education and improving their life chances.”
They also praised the school’s approach to reading, stating: “Opportunities for reading are everywhere in this school… Pupils quickly become confident, fluent readers through the phonics curriculum that leaders have chosen… Pupils develop a love of reading and a love of being read to.”
The school’s leadership was also highlighted with inspectors reporting that: “Leaders are sharply focused on their commitment to giving pupils the best education possible. They share a common goal and mission to improve the life chances of pupils. They know that this also has a positive impact on the school community. Leaders ensure that staff are given very high quality training to ensure that they have the skills to deliver the ambitious curriculum that leaders have designed.”
Katie Pierce, Head of School at The Forest Academy, said: “This is tremendous news for the whole community and something we’re all incredibly proud of. We know we have a very special team here at Forest doing extraordinary things but to have that recognised externally by Ofsted is wonderful.
“Our school is living proof of what can be achieved with the right focus, energy and support. 10 years ago, things were very different for this school but the unwavering commitment and belief of school leaders and staff, combined with the support and expertise from our Trust, has created an environment where every child can thrive and meet their potential. All children deserve an outstanding education and parents and carers can be 100% confident that that’s what we offer here at Forest.”
The Forest Academy has been on a decade-long journey of improvement since joining Wellspring in 2013. Back then, the school was labelled the 32nd Worst Performing School in England. Now, it is among only 7% of schools countrywide that carry the Outstanding label.
Mark Wilson, CEO at Wellspring Academy Trust, added: “The Forest Academy is a wonderful school. It was the first school that joined the Trust and it epitomises everything we are about – joy, compassion, ambition, community-mindedness and the belief that every child should have access to an exceptional education. Katie and the team at Forest have created magic: an outstanding school that plays an outstanding role in serving the whole community. Everyone involved should feel very proud.”
Elements Primary School in Middleton, Leeds, which opened its doors to pupils in 2018 has been rated Good in all areas in its first Ofsted report.
In the report, released this week, inspectors praised the school for its high ambitions for pupils, its strong curriculum and its highly effective teaching of reading.
Inspectors reported that: “This is a school where leaders welcome and encourage pupils to be ‘world-changers’. Leaders want pupils to aim high. They have designed an ‘Elements’ curriculum to broaden pupils’ ambitions.” They also commended the leadership with comments such as: “Senior leaders and those responsible for governance speak with passion about the school. They act to improve the educational and wider experiences on offer for all pupils.
Early years provision was also singled out for praise with inspectors stating: “Leaders have planned the knowledge, skills and personal qualities that they want children to learn in the early years. Adults know their children well and adapt the curriculum to meet their needs…Leaders continue to enhance the learning environment.”
Carrie Green, Executive Principal at Elements, said: “Any Ofsted inspection is an anxious time for a school but when it is the very first one, it is a particularly nerve wracking experience. I’m delighted with the way the team handled it and showcased brilliantly the excellent work that they do every day here at Elements.
“Since opening in 2018, we have worked tirelessly to develop a rich and exciting curriculum, a nurturing and supportive environment, and to embed the school firmly in the local community. We are thrilled that the inspectors saw what a fantastic school Elements is and acknowledged the way the team are creating a whole new generation of ‘world changers’ in our little corner of Leeds. The report is testimony to the efforts and talents of the whole Elements family and I’m incredibly proud of them.”
Mark Wilson, CEO of Wellspring Academy Trust which sponsors Elements, added: “Creating a successful new school from scratch is no easy feat. This report is welcome recognition of the superb job Carrie and the team have done, which has built on the important groundwork laid by Carrie’s predecessor Sarah Horsbrough. I am extremely pleased that the inspectors have recognised the quality of education on offer at Elements, alongside the high ambitions for all pupils and warm, supportive ethos.”
Elements opened in temporary facilities in 2018 before its £6m purpose-built school site opened in 2020. Operating a staggered opening, the Middleton free school is now home to children from reception level to year 4, and will be open to pupils in all years from September 2025.