The headteachers and governors of Blessed Thomas Holford Catholic College have said they are “disappointed” after the Altrincham school was judged to be “requiring improvement” in its first Ofsted report in 10 years.
The schools inspector visited the Urban Road school – home to 1,555 pupils – in October for the first time since 2013, when the school was judged to be ‘Outstanding’ in all categories.
However, the latest report saw the school downgraded to ‘Requires improvement’ in the quality of education, behaviour and attitudes, personal development, leadership and management and overall effectiveness. Its sixth-form provision was handed a ‘Good’ rating.
The report opens: “Staff do not have consistently high expectations of what pupils can and should achieve in Years 7 to 11. Pupils do not benefit from a sufficiently ambitious curriculum. The wider personal development curriculum on offer to pupils is also variable in quality. As a result, pupils’ academic progress and the quality of their personal development are uneven and sometimes weak in key stages 3 and 4.
“Conversely, students in the sixth form benefit from an effective education across a broad range of subjects. They achieve well. Students experience an age-appropriate personal development programme. They behave consistently well and show positive attitudes to their learning. Students said that they enjoy attending the sixth form.”
The report also described how “some pupils are frustrated with the quality of education that they receive”.
After receiving notice of the downgrade, the school lodged a formal complaint “relating to the conduct of the inspection and the outcomes”.
However the school’s governors said they now accepted the report and “intend to move forward with our action plan, supported by the Diocese of Shrewsbury and Local Authority”.
The school is currently advertising for a new headteacher following the departure of John Cornally MBE after 19 years at the school.
Interim co-headteachers Lee Fishwick and Emma Taylor said in a statement: “Our entire school community is disappointed by the overall judgement. Examination results, pastoral support and high number of parental applications for places would indicate that Blessed Thomas Holford is a successful school.
“We have sent a copy of the report to all parents with an email address to contact us and we are very grateful that the majority of parents have replied with positive and supportive comments about our school. We will be keeping our parental body regularly updated with our progress.”
In the letter sent to parents, the co-headteachers added: “The context behind our school’s new grade is Ofsted’s clear intention to reduce dramatically the number of schools graded Outstanding.
“That intention has translated into Ofsted downgrading 82% of previously Outstanding schools that it has inspected since January 2021. While we do not believe our school has been judged accurately we now need to accept the report and move forward.”
They also highlighted how pupils had achieved the best GCSE and A Level results in its history last summer, which were all above the national average.
Helen Hope, Chair of Governors at the school, added: “We are disappointed but we now need to accept the report and intend to move forward with our action plan, supported by the Diocese of Shrewsbury and Local Authority.”