Controversial academy and principal praised by inspectors
PUBLISHED: 12:56 19 July 2019 | UPDATED: 12:56 19 July 2019
A notoriously strict Norfolk school has impressed Ofsted on its first inspection.
Leaders at Great Yarmouth Charter Academy were said to have "successfully established a culture where there are high expectations" around behaviour and learning and that most students, including those who are disadvantaged or have special educational needs, made good progress.
The school, run by the Inspiration Trust, was judged to be good in all areas following the inspection on July 2 and 3.
It became an academy in 2017, with Barry Smith brought in as principal, after receiving some of the lowest GCSE results in the county.
In response to the Ofsted report, Mr Smith said: "The relationships, the warmth, the focus, the humour, kids' growing confidence, staff loving their work there's so much that's exceptional about Charter. Visit! It's a very special place."
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Inspectors praised Mr Smith's decisive actions to improve behaviour and attitudes to learning, saying that staff, pupils and the very large majority of parents believed that both had improved as a result.
But the stricter policies which came with him have ruffled the community. In February this year a year 11 pupil was told his "meet me at McDonald's" haircut was unsuitable for school and put in isolation, while members of the school's uniform supplier in Great Yarmouth were called out to check the length of girls' skirts in October 2018.
Last July it was reported that 81 pupils had left Charter Academy since the beginning of the 2017/18 academic year, with some parents concerned about the new stricter policies - but the trust stressed that 70 pupils had joined the school over the same period.
The Ofsted report said the Inspiration Trust and governors had explored reasons why pupils had left the school, acknowledging that reasons for actions had not always been communicated clearly. "Consequently, a small minority of parents have had concerns about the school's provision for some pupils' learning and managing their behaviour."
Behaviour was still considered a problem among a small number of pupils, which led them to be excluded or removed from lessons too often. The report said the number of exclusions is still too high, although it is reducing and permanent exclusions have been used appropriately.
Inspectors also noted a marked improvement in attendance, although it still remains below the national average.