Full details of the report have not yet been revealed but co-headteachers Alan Rogers and James Wilson and the school’s senior leadership team have ‘recognised and acknowledged that some improvements need to be made’.
Ofsted inspectors visited in October and carried out ‘deep dives’ into five subject areas, had meetings with the lead members of staff for attendance, behaviour and attitudes and safeguarding, took parent, student and staff questionnaire responses and spoke extensively to students.
The school’s last full inspection took place in September 2012 when it was deemed ‘good’.
Since then the school has moved to a new site and extended its age range following the reorganisation of the Alnwick Partnership in 2017.
School leaders acknowledge that Covid has had an impact, not only in terms of attendance, but also in other areas such as continuity in classrooms.
The school appointed co-headteachers in January 2021 following the retirement of Maurice Hall who had led the school for 17 years.
Mr Rogers and Mr Wilson say they were always very aware that change was required when they applied to take on the role in order to move the school forward and presented a detailed strategic plan to the governing body on school improvement on their appointment.
The Ofsted inspection corroborated this view, and the school was judged to be a school that ‘requires improvement’.
Since January 2021 the co-heads say there have been many steps taken on the school improvement journey; the senior leadership team has been re-organised; a new school improvement partner has been recruited; the curriculum offer has been reviewed; the teacher education programme has been enhanced and there has been a simplification of the behaviour policy with the emphasis on children being ready, respectful, and safe.
The co-heads say it is early in the journey for these things to have the intended impact, and this was commented on as a strength by Ofsted in the report.
They say that whilst the school is disappointed with the outcome, it is ‘a reflection of where it currently is within their own improvement plans’.
They welcome the report findings and look forward to using it to accelerate changes.
They said: “We will work tirelessly to provide the best opportunities and outcomes for our children and recognise the responsibility the school has to this unique rural community.”
Cllr Guy Renner-Thompson, cabinet member for children’s services at Northumberland County Council, said: “As a former pupil of the Duchess’s High School, this is not the result any of us wanted.
"However, whilst it is disappointing for them to be rated in this way by Ofsted, it also provides them with the reassurances that they are doing the right thing by looking at their education offer, the practices they have in place and the team they have to lead that forward.
“The school must also take some of the strengths Ofsted has identified in the report; safeguarding is effective, and children and staff feel well supported. Something which after the last 18-months is extremely important.”
“The local authority will do everything they can to also support the school.”