How to get an 'outstanding' grade in new Ofsted regime

Castleford Academy near Wakefield says it is the first secondary school to be awarded an 'outstanding' rating by Ofsted under the inspectorate's new framework. How did it do it?

Catherine Lough

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An academy with a "demanding" curriculum that has taken practical steps to reduce staff workload  has been awarded an “outstanding” rating under Ofsted's new inspection framework.

The framework came into effect at the start of this academic year and includes a new quality-of-education grade, which requires inspectors to place more focus on the curriculum.

Castleford Academy near Wakefield, West Yorkshire, has been awarded the highest possible Ofsted grade in all areas after being inspected on 9-10 October.

The school has stated on its website that it is "the first secondary school in the country to receive an Ofsted 'outstanding' rating under the new and more challenging framework". 

According to the inspection report, the  1,414-student school has focused on developing its curriculum, as well as providing pupils with a wider range of cultural experiences, including partnerships with major art galleries and ballet companies.

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"Leaders connect trips and visits with learning in lessons. Teachers inspire pupils with the opportunities on offer," the report says, adding: "Such experiences widen pupils’ horizons and develop their confidence."

The report also says that the senior team has developed the expertise of subject leaders, and that teachers used “research and professional development to create demanding curriculum plans” and “focus on the subject-specific language pupils need to learn”.

In a climate where teacher workload is often viewed as a driving force of attrition rates in the profession, the report also notes that school leaders have “taken practical steps to manage staff workload”.

“Staff feel well-supported. They are a highly motivated team of staff who are proud to work at the school,” the report says.

In the academy's most recent set of GCSE results, 72 per cent of Year 11 pupils achieved a grade 4 or above in English and maths, with a provisional Progress 8 score of +0.40– well above the national average.

In a statement on the school's website, headteacher George Panayiotou said: "I am delighted Ofsted have agreed with our assessment of Castleford Academy and its sixth form.

"The positive comments in the report show that our hard work and high expectations have resulted in exceptional academic outcomes, whilst maintaining a nurturing and highly supportive environment where the wellbeing of both pupils and staff are a priority. "

"I would personally like to thank all staff, pupils, parents, carers and governors for their ongoing hard work and dedication. We are extremely proud of our outstanding achievements and to be the first secondary school in the country makes this even more special."

Ofsted would not confirm whether the school is the first secondary to achieve "outstanding" under the new framework until an official report is published on its website. 

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