Recently taken over Thornton Heath academy says damning inspector findings were only weeks after it took over

By Tara O’Connor BBC local government reporter


A three-year-old school based in temporary blocks since it opened, has been labelled “inadequate” by inspectors.

Ofsted officers who visited in October say Paxton Academy in Brigstock Road, Thornton Heath needs to improve its maths teaching, to have more taught about other cultures and more training to teach special educational needs children.

Their report, published on January 30, follows the school’s three-year battle to get a permanent home.

In 2017, Croydon Council refused permission for a four-storey school to be built for 630 pupils aged from four to 11 years old with a rooftop ‘play deck’ and parking.

But in June 2018 this was overruled by the secretary of state for planning, James Brokenshire, who decided in favour of the school – so it will move into its permanent home in London Road this spring.

It was previously rated ‘Requires Improvement’ at its first inspection in 2017 and in July last year was taken over by the Wandle Learning Trust.

In the latest report inspectors wrote: “Trust leaders and the new interim executive headteacher are making changes, but at present pupils do not receive a good enough quality of education.”

The Wandle Learning Trust has implemented an interim executive board and headteacher to give the ‘intensive governance support it needs to improve’.

But it is too early to see positive changes to the school said the Ofsted inspectors.

They found that the teaching of maths and reading was not good enough at the school and there is poor behaviour which disrupts lessons.

The report also outlines that children with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) have not been identified early enough or get enough support.

The inspectors set out a number of areas that the school needs to improve, including:

  • Teachers need subject-specific teaching
  • Teaching of phonics needs to be improved to improve reading skills
  • Basic maths needs to be taught better
  • The curriculum needs to include more about different faiths and cultures
  • Teachers need training in meeting the needs of SEND pupils.

Sian Mathias, chair of trustees at Wandle Learning Trust, said at the time of the inspection the trust had only been in charge of the school for 15 weeks.

She said: “Wandle Learning Trust was set up by ‘Outstanding’ Chesterton Primary School and Chestnut Grove Academy in 2018 with a commitment to support other schools with their school improvement journeys so that all children can receive an excellent local education.

“Paxton Academy Sports and Science had been within our Trust for 15 school weeks at the time of the Ofsted inspection in November. Within their report inspectors strongly acknowledged the fast-paced school improvement that Wandle Learning Trust had brought about in that time.

“The report notes that: ‘The new Trust leaders’ ambition is high…Trust leaders provide excellent expertise and support…They have a thorough understanding of what needs to improve and have the skills to do this. They are rightly acting with urgency.’

“Ofsted have been very clear about the aspects that require our focus. As a Trust we are confident that we can work effectively together with the senior team, staff and our parents to make the improvements that are needed to provide an excellent local education for families in Thornton Heath.”

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