Ofsted: Bexleyheath Academy ‘transformed’ in two years

A ‘transformed’ secondary school in Bexleyheath has received high praise from Government inspectors exactly two years after it was issued with a ‘minded to terminate’ notice and placed into ‘special measures.’

Bexleyheath Academy say they are delighted with the newly released Ofsted report which “is testament to the fantastic transformation the school has been through”. They’ve also received praise for the high level of education provided to students over lockdown.

Two years ago, the school was slammed by Ofsted after it had found the school giving out primary school exercises and pupils partaking in homophobic and racist bullying, among a series of other serious issues.

In a letter sent to the Academies Enterprise Trust, who manage Bexleyheath Academy, the National Schools Commissioner Dominic Herrington warned that if there is “no clear improvement” made by next year, the school will have it’s funding cut and will be removed from the trust.

Also among criticisms from inspectors was a failure to support students where English is their second language, the school inhibiting staff morale – leading to a high staff turnover, and generally “failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education.”

Bexleyheath Academy

Bexleyheath Academy

But the school has since made wide-spread changes across the board, and having visited Bexleyheath Academy in February 2021, Ofsted have written to the school to ‘confirm their view’ that the school is taking effective action to provide education in the current circumstances.

In a letter to parents, David Hatchett, National Director for Secondary Schools for the Academies Enterprise Trust, acknowledged there had been ‘turbulent years’, but that this “wonderful news is testament to the exceptional leadership from the team.”

Lead by Mr Napier and supported by David Moody, the Secondary Executive Director for London at AET, Ofsted said the school had “provided high-quality education despite the challenges of the pandemic.”

Graeme Napier, Principal of Bexleyheath Academy, said: “We are so happy with the results of this virtual inspection, which really does reflect the fantastic transformation that our school has gone through. We have not let the challenges of the pandemic hold us back from our goals at Bexleyheath, and we will continue to work to make sure our young people have the best possible education.

“Our staff and pupils have all worked so hard over this past year, in circumstances that we could never have seen coming, and I am so proud of them. We are delighted to have them back in school now, and will continue to work tirelessly to support them.”

And the work of the past few years has paid dividends for the school, who have celebrated a 64% increase in the number of families who selected it as their choice for secondary school applications.

Ofsted’s letter points to the school’s commitment to improving the curriculum. Senior leaders had addressed the narrowing of the curriculum by the start of the pandemic, restoring the teaching of PE and RE in Years 10 and 11, and working to improve the curriculum in other subjects. This has continued despite the challenges of the pandemic.

Stock photo of school children - PA Wire

Stock photo of school children – PA Wire

School leaders organised education in the same way as they would have on site, while pupils who were coming into school received the same education. Pupils followed their usual timetable and were taught by their class teacher. Routines to ensure pupils learn effectively were “seamlessly transferred to remote education”, and all pupils were able to participate in events such as assemblies and clubs, including a reading club. Pupils spoke highly of the school and the remote education they were receiving.

Ofsted also praised the work of senior leaders in checking pupils’ attendance and engagement in online classes, identifying when pupils were struggling and taking prompt action to provide support. School leaders remained in regular contact with parents and carers, including home visits, and invited pupils to learn in school if that would best help them.

Parents were unanimous in their praise of the school’s approach to remote education. One quote, which was highlighted as being typical of many, said: “from communication to my child’s learning, they have somehow managed to make it feel like he hasn’t lost any time in this pandemic.”

The report also highlighted the support Bexleyheath Academy has received from AET, enabling school leaders to remove barriers to all pupils receiving an education in the current circumstances. AET provided devices and Internet access to ensure no pupil was locked out of learning and helped set high expectations for all pupils’ learning. AET’s curriculum teams continue to work remotely with subject leaders to support them to develop and improve the curriculum.

Ofsted’s report follows a letter from the Regional Schools Commissioner earlier in the term, recognising the significant improvements that have been made at Bexleyheath Academy. In the letter Claire Burton confirms that the Department for Education is likely to remove the “Minded to Terminate notice” this summer in light of the improvements made, subject to the next full Ofsted inspection.

Julian Drinkall, CEO of AET, said: “We are delighted that this fantastic Ofsted report recognises the hard work that goes on behind the scenes at Bexleyheath Academy.

“It is clear that Graeme and his team have taken remote learning seriously and provided a remarkable education over lockdown, all while continuing to work hard on improving every aspect of school life in ways which will extend far beyond the pandemic.

“They have left no stone unturned, and we look forward to welcoming Ofsted back into the school very soon, so they can see for themselves the fantastic work that goes on every day.”

David Hatchett, National Director of Secondary Schools at AET, said: “This letter from Ofsted, following their recent remote monitoring inspection, is testament to the hard work of pupils, parents, staff and leaders at Bexleyheath Academy, all of whom are superbly led by Graeme Napier, and supported by David Moody AET’s Secondary Executive Director.

“The school has been transformed over the last two years, and I pay tribute to everyone involved who have made this possible”.

The inspection took place via a number of virtual meetings with senior and subject leaders, teachers, pupils, the chair of the governing body and trustees, the school’s executive principal and AET’s secondary executive director.

Inspectors also reviewed curriculum plans, examples of materials used in live lessons, samples of pupils’ work, and viewed recordings of live lessons.

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