Cumbria Crack

Clear vision and strong leadership signal improvement for Workington school

Workington Academy (Photo Mike Mckenzie)

[W]orkington Academy has received promising feedback today in its first ever Ofsted report, following an inspection in May.

The thorough report highlights strong leadership, the “clear vision” of the new headteacher, and the staff’s “supportive relationship with pupils” as factors that will “ensure that outcomes for pupils remain on a trajectory of improvement.”

The successful Sixth Form, and the effectiveness of leadership and management of the school were two particularly notable areas of strength, and graded “Good” in the findings. Strong improvements in English and mathematics were also praised in the report.

“Leaders’ effective use of additional funding,” is evident in the progress of disadvantaged pupils, and is also cited as a strength. The school is deemed highly inclusive, with students who have special educational needs or disabilities reporting that they feel safe and happy.

Whilst Ofsted has determined that the school “Requires Improvement” overall, its inspectors’ assessments and analyses are promising.

Workington Academy was formed by the merger of Southfield Technology College and Stainburn School and Science College, and opened in September 2015, sponsored by the Cumbria Education Trust (CET). Both schools had been in special measures previously, and had been judged by Ofsted as inadequate across all categories in previous inspections.


Des Bird, headteacher, Workington Academy

The academy’s new headteacher, Des Bird, has only been in post since Easter, after spending four years at Carlisle’s Richard Rose Morton Academy, where he raised standards across the board, lifting the school from Special Measures to being Good in every category.

At Workington, Mr Bird has already “swiftly identified what aspects of the school require improvement,” and the report also cites his “clear vision,” noting that, “his plans to improve the school are sharp and precise. Pupils and staff are positive about his encouraging effect on the school’s culture.”

Mr Bird is confident that Workington Academy is now well on its way to becoming a good school:

“This report provides firm evidence that we are moving ever closer to the goal of a ‘Good’ judgment from Ofsted, which is encouraging. Though there is work still to do, the overall tone of the report is really positive and Ofsted recognises the progress which has been made when it says that ‘despite challenging circumstances, leaders ensure that outcomes for pupils remain on a trajectory of improvement’.”

Inspectors found that the efforts of Workington Academy’s leaders to promote equality and diversity across the school are “remarkable,” and they have been effective in raising standards and outcomes for students.

According to the report, “Pupils feel safe in school and bullying is extremely rare.” It depicts the work of all staff to keep pupils safe from harm as “exemplary,” and describes their work with external agencies as “meticulous.” The inspection team also recognised that “the overwhelming majority of pupils behave well during learning” and “the vast majority move around the school in a calm and orderly manner.”

“I took up this role because it provided a tremendous opportunity to build on my experience. One of my first tasks has been to work with the experienced and established Senior Leadership Team to further improve the quality of teaching and learning across the academy,” says Mr Bird.

“I am delighted that students studying English and maths at KS4 level are now making similar rates of progress to students nationally and our KS3 students are now also making good progress as they benefit from improvements in teaching.”

Despite the encouraging feedback, Mr Bird remains focussed on the tasks at hand: “We must now work harder to reduce absenteeism, improve behaviour and provide more effective monitoring and assessment of our students’ progress.”

CET’s Chief Executive Officer, Lorrayne Hughes, said: “I am particularly delighted that Sixth Form provision was judged to be good. It is vital for students to make appropriate and ambitious career choices and Ofsted noted that, effective careers guidance and support ensured that all Year 13 students continued onto higher education, employment or training.

“Ofsted recognises that we have significantly raised expectations and aspirations across the school since it opened in 2015 and I am sure Workington Academy will continue to go from strength to strength.”

Tracy Stainton, chair of the Local Advisory Board, said: “This is a positive report which bodes well for the future success of Workington Academy. It not only provides a good platform for our new headteacher, Mr Bird, but notes the excellent work of our fantastic staff who continue to work tirelessly to improve outcomes at the school and of course, our amazing students, who benefit daily from having a wonderful new school building and modern facilities. I should also like to take this opportunity to thank parents for their ongoing support.

“Workington Academy certainly has a bright future and I know our students have the potential to do even better as we continue on our journey of improvement.”