THE quality of teaching at a Taunton school has come under fire after inspectors rated it as inadequate.  

Ofsted rated The Taunton Academy during an inspection in January and the report has been published today (February 27). 

The school was rated inadequate in quality of teaching, learning and assessment, and outcomes for pupils. It was rated as requires improvement in effectiveness of leadership and management, and personal development, behaviour and welfare. 

The reported stated: "Outcomes are inadequate because pupils, particularly those who are disadvantaged or who have special educational needs and/or disabilities, do not make the progress they are capable of.

"Behaviour requires improvement. Although leaders have higher expectations, some lessons continue to be interrupted by poor behaviour.

"Many pupils enter the school in Year 7 with low standards of literacy. Pupils do not receive the good-quality teaching they need to catch up, and so by the time they leave the school their skills are not sufficiently strong."

The report also showed the proportion of pupils who attain the basics of the English and mathematics GCSEs is below average, attendance levels are below average, and  that all middle leaders are new to their roles so haven't had time to bring about consistency.

Strengths of the school were pointed out in the report, including the new headteacher, Jenny Veal, who was labelled as "instrumental" in stabilising the school as she halted the decline in standards and successfully brought the school through a period of "considerable change and uncertainty". 

Jenny Veal, headteacher, said: "I am pleased that the inspectors recognised some of the fundamental changes and improvements that we are making at the academy, but I am equally very disappointed with the judgement.

"This is principally because not enough of the reforms have been in place long enough to have had proper impact yet or to be properly measured. However, the inspectors feel confident that school leaders know what needs to be done and have the ability to continue to make improvements quickly.

"My leadership team and I, the governors and trust board, remain wholly committed to driving standards at the academy. We are grateful to the large numbers of parents and families who are so supportive of the school and share our goals of providing an excellent educational provision for all students. Together I know we will make this happen."

The report noted that pupil's behaviour around the school at break and lunchtimes had improved, and that there was some evidence of improvement in teaching since the start of the academic year.

The report also praised the local advisory board and trust directors for understanding the improvements that need to be made and said they have the skills required to bring about change. 

Chris Ormrod, chairman of governors, said: "We are disappointed that the rigid framework of the grading process has only allowed an ‘inadequate’ grading.

"Quite clearly when you hear from parents and talk to teachers around the school you get a very different picture. I can see there is great enthusiasm and drive, with highly motivated teachers and students. It is a shame that this process is unable to recognise the improvements already being made.

"I am, however, really pleased with the comments made by the Ofsted inspectors in the narrative section which shows they appreciate the progress already being made in Mrs Veal’s short time as head. Unfortunately the strictness of the grading doesn’t reflect that."

John Abbott, the chief executive of the Richard Huish Trust, which sponsors the Taunton Academy, said: "It is pleasing to read that Ofsted has recognised the impact the Richard Huish Trust and the Leadership Team are having on the academy.

"It is of course disappointing that the school is not, as yet, operating to its full potential. I have every confidence though that, under the continued guidance of the head teacher, the rapid and relentless improvements will continue. The Richard Huish Trust remains fully committed to supporting these improvements."