Ofsted inspectors praise Chantry Academy as student behaviour improves

Year 7 maths with Christina Fielden

Year 7 maths with Christina Fielden

Chantry Academy is making rapid progress towards being taken out of special measures, a promising new Ofsted report has said.

Year 10 English class

Year 10 English class

The plush £14.3million building which became the school’s new home last September has significantly improved student behaviour, created a “positive atmosphere” and caused a huge drop in bullying, the education watchdog said.

Lead inspector Paul Lawrence praised principal Craig D’Cunha, appointed last February under the acclaimed Talented Leaders scheme, for bringing a fresh “sense of optimism” to the 650-pupil academy in Mallard Way.

Speaking to the Star, Mr D’Cunha said new students do not have to suffer from the “baggage of previous regimes” and insisted the school’s newfound sense of community, which he likened to an “oasis of calm”, will lead to the academy being ranked ‘outstanding’ in the near future.

It comes just days after senior leaders at Ormiston Endeavour Academy, the former Thurleston High School in Defoe Road, were told by Ofsted they are still not taking effective action to remove the special measures sanctioned nine months ago.

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Chantry Academy, the old Chantry High School previously known as Suffolk New Academy before last September, was placed in special measures in January last year.

Last summer, in the space of just 12 months, the school’s benchmark GCSE results rose from 24% to 45%.

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In his report, Mr Lawrence said: “Leaders and managers are taking effective action towards the removal of special measures.

“Leaders and managers at all levels have ensured that reasonable progress has been made towards the academy’s removal from special measures. The sense of optimism which followed the arrival of the principal has been sustained since the last monitoring inspection [in June].

Headteacher Craig D'Cunha

Headteacher Craig D'Cunha - Credit: Gregg Brown

“Lesson observations and the scrutiny of pupils’ work undertaken by inspectors confirm that overall standards are rising. However, progress is too variable between and within subjects and also between different year groups. For example, current progress in Years 7 and 8 is more rapid than in Year 10.

“The quality of teaching is improving, but it remains inconsistent in its effectiveness between and within departments. There is still a small amount of inadequate teaching and too much that requires improvement.

“The revised curriculum approach adopted by the academy, in which pupils across the whole academy learn through tasks which match the style and standard of GCSE assessments, has successfully raised teachers’ expectations of what pupils can achieve.

“Increasingly teachers are also successfully planning their lessons so that progress is accelerated accordingly, particularly for the most able.”

Year 11 in the library

Year 11 in the library

He added: “The move to the new academy buildings has greatly enhanced pupil conduct. Pupils greatly appreciate their new environment and treat it with care. This contributes to the positive atmosphere around the site. Pupils are looking forward even more to the provision of improved outside space when all building work is complete.

“The academy’s monitoring information shows that incidents of poor behaviour are declining and pupils remain confident that bullying is rare and dealt with well by staff.”

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer credited Mr D’Cunha for helping to turn around the school.

He said: “This is very good news. Having been to the school a number of times in the last few months, the school has clearly made significant progress in the last year.

“The principal should be celebrated for the sense of direction he has given the school and the ambition he is instilling in staff and pupils.

“He will be the first to say we have a long way to go before we get to the point we all want to see – Chantry Academy being an ‘outstanding’ school – but I have no doubt that he, his team and his pupils are well set on their journey.”

David Ellesmere, a former governor of the school, said: “From my own visits to Chantry Academy, it is clear that the hard work of Craig D’Cunha and his staff to turn round the school is beginning to pay off.

“The prospects for Chantry and its pupils are brighter than they’ve been for a long time.”

Craig D’Cunha was appointed as principal of Chantry Academy as part of the Talented Leaders initiative to find exceptional headteachers for schools in deprived areas that struggle to recruit.

He was chosen out of more than 100 applicants and replaced Andrew Fell, who resigned after 10 years at the school.

Mr D’Cunha said: “I’m very pleased with the report. It confirms that the immediate actions we put in place back in February are starting to really make a difference. Ofsted have recognised that the foundations are there.

“Parents and the community are increasingly confident with the direction in which the school is going and the actions we put in place in terms of behaviour are continuing to have an impact. We are striving in the right direction.

“We are now looking at a period of consolidation after a lot of new and innovative steps. We have got to make sure they are embedded.”

Mr D’Cunha believes students now view Chantry Academy as a community with a new sense of belonging and ambition.

He said: “Students feel more together and can actually see that there is movement around, they can see they are part of a larger organisation.

“We have changed systems and people feel more valued as a result of it. Our whole new ethos is being feeling valued: having versatile aspirations for determined individuals. That valued ethos really does permeate across everything.

“They turn up to school and go ‘wow, I am proud to be here’. And because they are proud to be here, they respond to support.

“The building is light and airy, it is purposeful, sympathetic to the community and that adds to the student experience. Staff feel they are now in a place where doors shut properly and walls don’t move.

“But it is not just about the building. It is about the systems we put in place, the quality of teaching is improving, the behaviour systems, the determination to support students to be successful, the change of our curriculum on higher expectation; all those aspects are having a more marked impact because they haven’t got the baggage of previous regimes.

“We put things in place which were not quick fixes or sticky plaster solutions. They were fundamental changes.

“We have GCSE standard work for every pupil in Year 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11. Skills and the subject knowledge are all about GCSEs, so we have raised expectations which have had a marked effect on their aspirations.

“Year 8 are going to get our best (GCSE) results we are doing catch-up work with Year 10 so they get our best-ever results too.

“Bullying has also gone down and that is a reflection of a calm and orderly atmosphere within the school. Students want to be here. They co-operate and work with us and irrespective of what goes on beyond the school gates, they come here to enjoy an oasis of calm and orderly behaviour.”

When asked about when he expects special measures to be removed, he added: “We have got our own understanding of where this academy needs to be and we are making improvements every day. We won’t stop until we are a good and outstanding school, and not just Ofsted good and outstanding, but really producing good and outstanding students.

“We are well on our way to that and I would like to think we will come out of special measures this year.”