Exclusive: Investigation into Leeds school passes safety fears on to Ofsted

INDEPENDENT inspectors who investigated an unexpected drop in GCSE results at a Leeds school were so worried about the safety and behaviour of pupils that they passed their concerns on to Ofsted.

By John Roberts
Monday, 30th November 2015, 10:05 am
David Young Community Academy.  Picture Tony Johnson.
David Young Community Academy. Picture Tony Johnson.

The investigation was commissioned by the new principal at the David Young Community Academy, in Seacroft, after the number of pupils achieving five good GCSEs, including English and maths, fell way below predictions.

A report from this review, seen by the Yorkshire Evening Post, criticises teaching and learning at the school and also raises concerns about pupils’ safety, behaviour and safeguarding.

The principal Jeremy Richardson said the school took the issues raised very seriously and had “acted immediately on these findings.”

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The report says pupils were not kept safe at the school, and said that pupil behaviour, including conduct in lessons and around the academy was inadequate.

The review also rated the quality of teaching, learning and assessment as inadequate and said the academy was not providing pupils with the statutory minimum of teaching time. However the observers also highlighted examples of successful teaching.

On the issue of behaviour the review team said as pupils moved between lessons the observers saw fighting and food being thrown. In one instance a pupil was lifted off the ground near a balcony.

The report adds: “When the observer intervened, the boys replied that they weren’t going to drop him from the balcony, only to dangle him.” It also highlighted an instance of an ex-student entering the school and spending several hours unsupervised .

In a section on pupil conduct, safeguarding and safety the report says: “Given the weight of evidence gathered, the concerns of the review team were shared, by letter, with the Ofsted regional director.”

Mr Richardson said: “The safety of our children is of prime importance, so I have ensured that the building is secure and that the single central record is complete.” He said a safeguarding governor had been appointed and a review of site security had been carried out.

On the school’s academic standards, Mr Richardson added: “I have changed the academy day so that there is now the statutory amount of teaching time each week and learning is not disrupted. I have introduced a system for managing the performance of the teachers so they get the best out of our students. It includes coaching and monitoring their performance through lesson observation and data on student progress, and using this to hold them closely to account.

“I have already established a system for consistent checking that all students are making good progress.”

He added that the community of East Leeds deserved the very best for its young people and he believed this was “entirely achievable with the high standards I have set for the future.”

The inspection report says that their work was commissioned by the school’s principal to provide “an evaluation of the quality of teaching, learning and assessment as part of the process of exploring why outcomes at GCSE in summer 2015 were so low and so far away from teacher predictions.”

It adds: “GCSE outcomes in Summer 2015 fell well below predictions on most benchmarks. GCSE outcomes mean that the academy has not met the government’s current minimum floor standards.  Existing school self-evaluation, judging the school to be good in all areas, is seen to be unreliable and invalid.”

And the report warns that some pupils cannot communicate, read, write or apply mathematics as well as they should.

However the report has a section praising examples of good teaching which observers saw.

It said that in some cases teachers consistently, rigorously and skilfully intervene, using a variety of strategies, including the overt use of sanctions and rewards, to convey to pupils their clear expectations for both conduct and work.

It also says that in some cases “teachers have established and sustained strong routines high expectations, creating a climate for learning in which pupils can experiment, explore, share and discuss”. And observers said in the best lessons they saw teachers were attentive to the detail of pupils’ responses.

The YEP has previously reported that the school was predicting 55 per cent of pupils would achieve five A* to C grades, including English and maths, this year. However the actual figure was 34 per cent.

We also revealed earlier this month that the David Young Community Academy’s local governing body had asked both Ofsted and the Regional Schools Commissioner for support after being dissatisfied with the response of the LEAF academy trust board - the organisation which runs the school. This followed the governors’ concerns about the GCSE results.

David Young was one of the first city academies to open in Yorkshire in 2006. It is now part of the LEAF Academy Trust which comprises three schools: David Young and two other primaries.

It has previously been rated as good by Ofsted in 2009 and 2012. Ofsted have now reinspected the school and their report is expected to be published shortly.

The new chair of the LEAF Trust Bishop Paul Slater said: “The new principal has acted quickly to tackle the weaknesses highlighted in the report and has gained the trust of governors, senior leaders and staff. We are confident that under his leadership the school will once again be providing our students with the best possible opportunities for learning.”

The school’s governing body has previously issued a statement in support of both Mr Richardson and the newly appointed chairman of the LEAF trust , the Rt Rev Slater.