Delight at Alnwick school’s dramatic recovery

Staff and pupils at Lindisfarne Middle School in Alnwick, which is now rated good by Ofsted.
Staff and pupils at Lindisfarne Middle School in Alnwick, which is now rated good by Ofsted.
  • School placed in special measures in 2013
  • Leadership now rated as outstanding
  • New headteacher took over at end of last year

A north Northumberland school is back from the brink just 18 months after it was slammed in a scathing Ofsted report.

In a dramatic turn-around, Lindisfarne Middle School, in Alnwick, has just been rated good in its first full report since it was deemed to require special measures in late 2013.

We will continue to support and challenge our schools to give the children the best education possible

Lalage Bosanquet, chairman of governors

The quality of teaching, achievement of pupils and behaviour and safety of pupils were all rated good – the second highest of the four ratings – while leadership and management was ranked as outstanding.

Among all the improvements, the latter is perhaps the most impressive as the school’s leadership was heavily criticised in 2013 and received an inadequate rating.

In December last year, Dawn Morton, headteacher at the Duke’s Middle School, was appointed as executive head of both schools. Under her stewardship, the Duke’s has also gone from requires improvement to good.

The previous inspection of Lindisfarne was one of 17 which took place across Northumberland in October 2013, sparked by concerns about the attainment of pupils on free school meals compared to elsewhere in the North East and nationwide. Nine of the 17 required improvement and four were placed in special measures, including St Cuthbert’s RC First School in Amble, which has since closed.

Northumberland County Council was also criticised, with the regional head of Ofsted questioning ‘the local authority’s capacity or influence to drive improvement’.

Reacting to the report, Mrs Morton said: ““We are all very glad that Ofsted recognises the hard work by students, staff and governors and would like to thank parents and the wider community for their continued support during recent changes at the school.

“Being graded as good is not the end of our work to improve Lindisfarne Middle School as there is still a lot more we want to do to ensure we give the children the education they deserve and need.”

Chairman of governors Lalage Bosanquet added: “The latest Ofsted inspection is very welcome news and the outstanding grade for leadership and management shows what a positive impact Mrs Morton’s headship is having on Lindisfarne Middle School, just as it has at Duke’s Middle School.

“As a federation governing body, we are now working with all three schools – Lindisfarne and Duke’s Middle and the Duchess’s Community High Schools – which are classed as good with some outstanding elements and we will continue to support and challenge our schools to give the children the best education possible.”

The report points out a number of reasons why Lindisfarne Middle School is now good.

In terms of achievement of pupils, it states: ‘Pupils make good progress in reading, writing and mathematics. By the time they leave the school, pupils reach standards above those typically seen by the end of Year 8’.

It adds that pupils’ progress is ‘checked regularly and accurately; any underachievement is rapidly and effectively addressed’, while performance gaps between different groups of pupils are rapidly closing.

The quality of teaching ‘is improving rapidly’ with almost all being good and some being outstanding.

Behaviour and safety of pupils is also good with children being ‘proud of their school and participating enthusiastically in a wide and broadening range of clubs and activities’.

They behave well, know how to keep themselves and others safe with bullying being rare and pupils confident that staff will address any problems that arise.

Leadership and management is rated outstanding – the most highly ranked of the four key categories.

The report says: ‘Senior and middle leaders are highly successful in promoting effective teaching and ensuring that staff readily take full responsibility for improving pupils’ achievement.

‘Governors know the school very well. They make good use of information on the quality of teaching and data on pupils’ achievement to hold the school to account’.

There are two main reasons quoted as to why the school is not yet outstanding.

‘Some teachers’ expectations of what pupils can achieve are not high enough, particularly for the most able pupils. Work set can occasionally lack challenge and be too easy.

‘Although much improved, the quality of teachers’ marking and feedback to pupils is still too variable between classes and year groups’.

The report comes as consultation has begun over the preferred model of primary and secondary schools in the Alnwick Partnership, which would see Lindisfarne and the Duke’s Middle Schools closed in summer 2017.

Alnwick councillor Gordon Castle said: “This report is a well-earned reward for all of the staff who have worked so hard and bodes well for the future integration of the town’s schools.”