BIG improvements at a Morpeth school have seen it move up a grade in its Ofsted examination.
Inspectors scrutinised all aspects of Chantry Middle School and Technology College on a two-day visit before the end of term and it has received a Good rating, up from Satisfactory in 2008.
The result is even more impressive because the regulator has made it tougher to achieve the top two grades, Outstanding and Good, over the last 18 months.
Changes and new strategies have been introduced and staff and pupils have benefited from working closer together with neighbouring Newminster Middle School and King Edward VI High School as part of The Three Rivers Federation from 2009 – the three schools became an academy learning trust in December.
The report, which rates Chantry as Good in every category, said: “Students of all ages say that they are making good progress.
“The school’s most recent assessments in Year 6 and Year 8 show that progress for all groups of pupils, including disabled students and those who have special educational needs, is substantially exceeding national average rates.
“The school’s effective focus on the quality of teaching has identified good practice and elements of lessons that can be improved. The result has been more good quality lessons and a faster pace of learning throughout the school.
“Behaviour is good and relationships between students and members of staff are excellent. Students also respond very positively to the wide range of extra-curricular activities that the school provides.”
As well as observing lessons, the inspectors examined examples of school work, looked at documents such as its development plan and homework policy, analysed questionnaires from parents and carers and others completed by staff and students.
Executive Headteacher of Chantry and Newminster Paul Lawrence said that pupils have worked extremely hard over the last few years to improve the school’s exam results and he praised teachers for their willingness to develop new skills and techniques.
“Across the country, schools are generally either staying at the same grade or dropping one because of the tougher Ofsted standards so it’s great that we have bucked the trend by going up the scale,” he added.
“Everyone has come together to get Chantry back to where it should be, although there is no complacency as we’re always striving to improve. I’m grateful to the inspectors for making it clear what we need to do to become an outstanding school.
“The pupils’ attitude to learning is very positive and their behaviour is exemplary. The provisional SATS results demonstrate improvements across the board, including among the higher attaining students who are really flying.
“We’ve found a better balance because in the past there was too much teacher direction, but now the pupils have more opportunities to develop their learning skills on their own. In saying that, support is always there when they need it. Parents have also played their part in the school’s development and we appreciate the efforts of the PTA and parents’ forum groups.”
The areas to improve further that were mentioned in the report include increasing the pace of learning in some lessons and providing a better consistency and quality of written feedback to students when work is marked.