Ofsted hails “startling transformation” of Leeds school since change of leadership

— John Smeaton Academy had been a failing school for over a decade before change —


Ten years ago, John Smeaton Academy was placed in Special Measures by Ofsted. And the Leeds secondary school was rated either Inadequate or Requires Improvement every time Ofsted inspectors visited after that.


But today, following the first inspection of the school since it joined The GORSE Academies Trust three years ago, John Smeaton Academy has been rated Good in all areas, with Ofsted describing the turnaround as “startling”.


Inspectors said the school had become “a beacon for its community”, with students well-behaved, staff believing in them, and ambitions set high in all areas of school life. Ofsted says that students at John Smeaton Academy now “flourish”.


The full report can be read here https://www.johnsmeatonacademy.org.uk/.


But when GORSE was asked by the Government to take the school on in 2021, it was a different story. The school was beset by long-standing problems including poor exam results, high staff turnover, bad behaviour among some students, and years of entrenched failure.


Today’s Ofsted report tells how GORSE has transformed the school and includes a string of highlights, such as:


  • “Leaders and staff have worked closely with pupils to bring about a startling transformation at this school.”
  • “Pupils share the ambitions that staff have for them and value the kindness shown to them.”
  • “This school is now a beacon for its community. Pupils, staff, parents and carers are right to be proud of all that they have achieved.”
  • “Staff have worked with pupils to transform standards of behaviour. A consistent ‘positive discipline’ approach, rooted in caring kindness and active intervention, is consistently in place throughout the school.”
  • “Pupils behave well. They are kind to their peers and speak to staff and visitors with warmth and respect.”
  • “Pupils increasingly benefit from the well-considered curriculum that is in place.”
  • “Older pupils speak of the positive changes they have seen and the opportunities that they now have. They know that the school is providing them with ‘the gift of choice’. They are increasingly well prepared for their next steps.”
  • “The school is determined to address disadvantage, to raise pupils’ ambitions and give them opportunities to develop their talents and interests. The enrichment clubs and activities are numerous, well-attended and include the ‘Big 3’ of karate, rowing and volleyball. Pupils experience many exciting trips and competitions alongside opportunities to give something back to the community. All of this, and more, helps pupils to flourish.”
  • “Trust and school leaders have swiftly improved the quality of education.”
  • “All staff know the role that they have in improving attendance. A range of strategies are in place, including schemes such as the 100% attendance club.”

Andrew Moncur, Principal at John Smeaton Academy, said:

“I am delighted with what has been accomplished at John Smeaton Academy. Ofsted’s report is superb. But it confirms what we already knew – that this is now a really good school.


“Today’s success is a real team effort that has taken place over three years. It’s down to the hard work and dedication of our students, our talented and committed staff, our supportive parents and the backing and expertise of The GORSE Academies Trust. Everyone involved with the school has played their part. I am proud of what we have achieved together.


“This isn’t the end of the story though – we will keep working hard for every student here every day so that they have a great education.”


Sir John Townsley, Chief Executive Officer of The GORSE Academies Trust, said:

“The GORSE Academies Trust will always stand ready to take on schools that need help – because the children and young people in those schools, and in every school, deserve it. It doesn’t matter if it is hard or difficult, our job as educators is to give children the best chance to succeed and fulfil their potential. That is what we have done at John Smeaton Academy, and Andrew and his team deserve so much credit. They have done an exceptional job.”