In its first Ofsted Inspection as an academy Darwen Vale High School has been graded Requires Improvement, having received the lowest Ofsted grade, Inadequate, on its last inspection in 2013.
Ofsted Inspectors visited on the 15th and 16th of November, and their report praises recent improvements at the school, stating: ‘The new principal has taken swift action to strengthen senior leadership and to begin to resolve legacy issues.’ They highlighted that the leadership team ‘lead with drive and determination’ and ‘are having a positive effect on the quality of provision.’
Darwen Vale Principal Matthew Little, who joined the school in June, said: “The inspection was very thorough and fair, and the report is an accurate reflection of where the school has got to in its improvement journey. We are determined to deliver the highest standard of education for all of our students. The Inspectors have laid out a clear route for us becoming Good and then Outstanding. I believe that with the right people and support now in place we have a springboard to achieve that in the near future.”
The report carries a good deal of praise for Darwen Vale’s students. It found that ‘Pupils are respectful and polite and welcoming to visitors.’, with pupils telling the Inspectors that they ‘feel safe and well cared for’ at the school.
The four inspectors noted that ‘The provision to promote pupils’ well-being means that pupils have many opportunities to grow and flourish and to develop as well-rounded, confident young people’ and praised the ‘very positive relationships between staff and pupils and between pupils.’ The Ofsted Inspectors found that ‘Staff morale is high’ and that ‘Staff feel well supported by leaders’. They said that ‘Teachers are keen to continue improving the quality of teaching and learning and say that they have benefited from the training that has already taken place. Current pupils are making better progress because the quality of teaching is improving.’
The report also noted that ‘Pupils’ personal development and welfare are given high priority’, and that ‘Strategies to develop pupils’ self-confidence and to strengthen pupils’ resilience are proving to be effective.’ Inspectors found that ‘The vast majority of pupils and parents are positive about recent changes. They report that higher expectations are having a positive impact on behaviour.’
Brendan Loughran, Aldridge Education Executive Principal said: “The Trust and the school’s governors are supporting Matthew and Vale’s new Senior Leadership Team to deliver the improvements the Inspectors reference in their report. As the report noted, this includes ‘leaders and teachers from the other successful schools in the trust providing support to further school improvement’.”
“The Inspectors noted that ‘Pupils in Years 7 to 10 have started to make much more secure progress. …Pupils say that they now feel more confident in subjects in which they are underachieving.’ We now have a strong team in place at Darwen Vale and we are determined to continue to raise standards and accelerate our students’ progress.”