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Ofsted finds the good in King's

The first academy to be sponsored by the controversial evangelical Christian Emmanuel Schools Foundation has been praised by inspectors.

A senior HMI inspector found that King's academy, Middlesbrough, was a good school with many strengths.

The verdict contrasts with that of Unity academy, sponsored by the support services group Amey, also in Middlesbrough. Unity was placed in special measures in May for unacceptable standards, unsatisfactory leadership and low staff morale.

It provides the foundation, backed by Sir Peter Vardy, the millionaire car dealer, with valuable ammunition to counter its critics over several recent controversies, including its practice of teaching creationism alongside evolutionary scientific theory.

King's hit the headlines again when The TES revealed that in 20034, its first year, the academy permanently excluded 28 pupils, more than 10 times the English secondary average. And last week parents at the foundation's new Trinity academy, near Doncaster, claimed its tough disciplinary regime was turning their children into zombies.

But Ofsted has, at least partially, vindicated the foundation on all three points. The report notes the school's Christian ethos, but says: "Students are also encouraged to develop their own beliefs and principles and those of different faiths are welcomed and respected."

It said attendance remained too low and the behaviour of a significant minority of pupils posed a challenge.

But the school had taken a firm line. There had been a pressing need to use exclusion as a sanction when King's first opened which had decreased markedly as pupils recognised the boundaries. "There is much to indicate that the academy's approach is succeeding and that attitudes and behaviour have greatly improved," the report concluded.

It also described teaching and leadership as good and the full integration of pupils with learning difficulties as impressive.

"Senior leaders in particular articulate a clear vision for the future of the academy," the Ofsted report said. "Their priorities are to raise the students' self-esteem and improve their standards of attainment."

Chris Drew, King's principal, said: "I think it is a fair reflection of the progress we have made to date and of the significant amount of hard work that has been put in by the staff and students alike.

"The inspectors commented that it is rare for a rating of 'good' to be awarded to a school so young.

"We will seek to use this report as a springboard to even better things in the future."

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