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Melbourn Village College graded ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted amid poor pupil behaviour

A secondary school where derogatory or offensive vocabulary is part of “too many students’ everyday language” has been graded inadequate by Ofsted.

Inspectors said pupils’ learning experience at Melbourn Village College is spoiled by poor behaviour.

Chris Bennet, the new headteacher at Melbourn Village College
Chris Bennet, the new headteacher at Melbourn Village College

“Leaders intervene to keep pupils safe from serious risks and incidents, including bullying. However, the attitudes of a minority around the school make many feel uncomfortable,” the report states.

It continues: “Derogatory, offensive vocabulary is commonplace in some pupils’ everyday language. Staff are inconsistent in the way that they challenge these behaviours.

“This, in turn, damages pupils’ confidence in how some adults deal with issues.”

The report also raised concerns that some pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) “are not routinely given enough support to ensure they access the curriculum that others do”.

However, inspectors recognised that leaders expect pupils to achieve well in their GCSEs, but said those expectations are not as high for the quality of pupils’ everyday work.

They also acknowledged that pupils study a broad and balanced curriculum from Year 7 to Year 11, and the requirements of the national curriculum are met.

Leaders say the report is disappointing and have set out its plans to return the school to its previous ‘good’ grading.

The Cam Academy Trust, which the school is part of, says it appointed new leaders during the past academic year after identifying that changes were needed to improve behaviour and standards.

Christopher Bennet, executive headteacher, said: “When I was appointed during the last year, we and the trust conducted an immediate and thorough review of all areas of the school and identified a number of areas that needed to be improved and addressed.

“Among this, we identified that following the disruption of COVID-19, standards of behaviour needed to improve to return the school back to its previously good standards and high expectations.

“Since then, we have a clear focus on routines, expectations and standards that have been put in place and we feel that these changes have started to bring about the improvements needed, although more work still needed to be done.”

Their report, which followed the inspection in July, was published on Monday, November 6.

The inspectors recognised the impact, assessments and decisions new leaders have made.

“School leaders, including within the trust, have an accurate understanding of what needs to be improved. A thorough review of important policies and procedures has been undertaken. Some new subject leaders have been appointed. This has brought about improvements in curriculum provision. Frank conversations have been held with staff around expectations and responsibilities,” it said.

The report judges three of the inspected areas – the quality of education, personal development, and leadership and management – as ‘requires improvement’. However, behaviour and attitudes was graded as ‘inadequate’, limiting the overall report to this judgement.

Mr Bennet continued: “While we had already identified that standards of behaviour need to improve further and become more consistent, we do not agree with, and are disappointed by, the comments made in the report and the manner in which the inspection took place, which seemed to focus on this one area.

“For example, new systems, routines, and processes had been introduced and started to bring about improvements, and the most recent GCSE results were exceptional, demonstrating the high standards and achievements students make at the school.

“We do not underestimate the need for improvements to take place, and significant further changes have already taken place since the school returned in September. We have a clearer emphasis on using tutor time to focus on improving behaviour and establishing high expectations. Significant training and monitoring have also been instilled to drive consistently high standards in behaviour, routines, and uniform – making sure all staff and students are following our policies and expectations clearly.

“The report will not take these improvements or the most recent exam results into account. But, based on our own assessments, we are confident that improvements are being made quickly and that the school will return to being a ‘good’ school by 2024.”

The school, part of a multi-academy trust which includes Comberton Village College and Cambourne Village College, has also appointed a scrutiny panel of external education leaders from across Cambridgeshire to push and drive the improvement plan.

Stephen Munday, chief executive of The Cam Academy Trust, added: “We are clearly disappointed with the comments in the Ofsted report, and that is why we took the decision to put in place new leadership last year.

“The impact of the improvement plan is now really showing, and while the Ofsted report has only just been published, we know that behaviour has already significantly improved, classrooms feel calmer and more orderly, and that it is providing a good learning environment for students.

“We are confident the school will return to being a good school within the next year if these improvements continue.”

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