Improvements need to be made at middle schools

Two north Northumberland middle schools require improvement after Ofsted inspections during last term.

Seahouses Middle School and James Calvert Spence College (JCSC) – South Avenue were awarded the rating – below outstanding and good, but above inadequate – after visits from inspectors in in February.

At Seahouses, the school’s rating dropped from good at its previous inspection because ‘standards declined in Key Stage 2 in 2013 compared to 2012 particularly in English and mathematics’.

The report continues: ‘Girls’ performance was particularly weak in each subject. Over time, pupils’ achievement has been significantly below average in Key Stage 2.’

It claims that teaching and marking are not consistent nor good enough in many cases, while the governors are said to not have enough information about the school’s performance in order to challenge the leadership about the decline in standards.

However, ‘leaders are getting to grips with the decline in standards in English and mathematics, particularly at Key Stage 3, and there is evidence that positive change is now happening in Key Stage 2, mostly in writing’.

Plus, behaviour and safety of pupils – one of the four main categories of judgement – was rated as good, with the report referring to pupils being ‘keen to learn and show very positive attitudes to their studies’.

JCSC was rated at its last inspection as satisfactory, which has since been renamed as requires improvement.

This is because ‘students, including the most able, do not always achieve the expected rate of progress in Key Stage 2 given their starting points’ and ‘achievement overall requires improvement because students do not always do as well as they should over a sustained period of time’.

As with Seahouses, concerns are also raised about the consistency and quality of both teaching and marking/feedback.

But there are positives, chief among them being that ‘leaders and managers, including governors, have a resolute determination to ensure that standards rise quickly’, leading to leadership and management – another of the four main categories – being rated as good.

And JCSC ‘provides well for students’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development’ while there ‘some good teaching and examples of outstanding teaching were seen during the inspection in English and art’.