Academy placed in special measures

Matthew Hillier, the new principal of Ringmer Community College
Matthew Hillier, the new principal of Ringmer Community College
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Ringmer Community College has been placed in special measures by Ofsted.

The academy, in Lewes Road, underwent a two-day inspection in January and the findings of lead inspector Kathryn Moles are due to be published shortly.

Richard Schofield, CEO of King’s Group Academies, which only took over the running of the school in December, said he had hoped his team would have had more time to see their improvement work bear fruit before facing an inspection.

Mr Schofield said there was “no disputing” Ofsted’s findings, adding: “We recognised they would be coming in to see a school that clearly was under-performing.”

But, with a new leadership and governance team already appointed, he was confident the academy was firmly on the road to better things.

His view was shared by Ms Moles. While she rated Ringmer ‘inadequate’ in all areas, except for 16 to 19 study programmes, which was rated ‘requires improvement’, she found the trust “committed to the school and determined to make a difference”.

Acknowledging work was in the early stages, she added: “It has secured the confidence of parents and is beginning to raise aspirations and improve communication.”

Among the issues raised in Ms Moles’ report was the lack of strong progress being made by children due to inconsistent teaching. This was particularly problematic in maths and science.

Figures published by the Department for Education showed that pupils who completed Year 11 in 2016 made progress well below expectations; while less than half gained a GCSE grade C or better in English and maths.

Mr Schofield said the academy was already advertising for a new head of science.

Other staff changes saw Matthew Hillier appointed as principal, having played a pivotal role in taking Worthing High School out of special measures and up to a ‘good’ rating in just two years. He will take up his post on February 27.

Mr Schofield said Robert Gibson, who had been serving as acting principal, had returned to a teaching role, while “one or two” other staff had decided to leave.

He added: “We need a robust teaching staff that’s fit for purpose.”

When it came to the attendance and behaviour of the children, Ms Moles found almost one-fifth were persistently absent, with previous efforts to address this making “little difference”.

The work of Mr Hillier and the trust were seen to be already turning things around. Ms Moles said: “Leaders’ recent actions to improve behaviour are showing some signs of making a positive difference.”

Mr Schofield said: “My message to parents is that we have come in as an experienced team. We were specifically asked to come into Ringmer because we were experienced and successful in turning schools around. There is really hope for the future.”

As a result of the report, Ringmer will be assigned an inspector who will help the academy move forward. An action plan will be submitted to Ofsted and an inspection is likely to follow within the next four to five months.

Mr Hillier said: “I am keen to add to the positive aspects that exist in the school, such as the strong sense of community and good relationships, by creating the right environment for students to thrive intellectually. We want to make learning exciting for students and give them the desire to succeed.”

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