School launches independent review following ‘unexpected’ Ofsted report

City of London Academies Trust questions grading

Monday, 27th June — By Charlotte Chambers


City of London Highgate Hill

A SECONDARY school has complained to Ofsted and is carrying out its own independent review of standards after the schools watchdog ruled it “requires improvement”.

City of London Academies Trust, which runs City of London Academy Highgate Hill, has twice been named best sponsor of schools for achieving above national average grades for disadvantaged pupils.

The Trust runs 10 primary and secondary schools across inner London boroughs, and usually works with children from deprived parts of the city.

It has questioned the overall grading of Highgate Hill school, which is based in Archway, and why despite finding the quality of education “good”, inspectors still ranked the school as falling below expected standards overall.

“This was unexpected,” a Trust spokesperson said. “Our concerns on the inspection process have been shared with Ofsted and the outcome remains the subject of an independent review by the school’s adjudicator.”

While the report praised the school for personal development and quality of education, it said leadership needed improving amid concerns about disruptive behaviour and bullying not being dealt with effectively.

The report said while bullying was “not endemic,” it was not nipped in the bud when it did occur and as a result it “too often continues”.

It also said that poor behaviour “sometimes” disrupted learning, which could lead to children being removed from class.

A final key area of concern for Ofsted was “persistent” absences among some pupils, although it acknowledged leaders at the school were making improvements in that area.

Since September 2021 there have been fewer persistently absent pupils and better overall attendance levels than the national average.

Mary Bousted of the National Education Union, speaking at their annual conference in April, criticised Ofsted for giving schools negative inspections when there were clear signs of improvement.

She said: “Research shows that Ofsted is un­fairly biased against schools and colleges in poor areas and is far more likely to slap them with an unjust negative judgement – even if they are improving.”

Up to 60 per cent of students at City of London Academy Highgate Hill are identified as disadvantaged or meeting the requirements of pupil premium, according to their website.

The Highgate Hill inspection report praised the curriculum there as “ambitious” and said teachers used their subject knowledge well to support learning. Assessment was used effectively, it added, and highlighted how children with additional educational needs “achieved well” while all children were supported to become “confident” readers.

The Trust spokesperson said that since the inspection, “various measures have been put in place to address the issues that were highlighted” and added: “Although our concerns have been raised with Ofsted, we always welcome feedback be­cause it allows us to im­prove the educational experience for the children we serve.”

An Ofsted spokesperson refused to comment on the complaints made by the school.

They added: “Inspectors carefully considered the context of a school and its challenges; for example, schools in deprived areas. Our Education Inspection Framework sets out key expectations for schools in relation to the quality of education, and pupils’ attitudes and behaviour.

“It sets out the same high standards for all pupils in all schools, while taking into account the school’s context and demographics.”

Ofsted has also published its findings into a second City of London Academies Trust school in Highbury Grove on Tuesday, which was found to be “good”.

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