Academy trust making ground in battle to shake off Highbury Grove School’s ‘special measures’ Ofsted tag

Highbury Grove School. Credit: Ken Mears

Highbury Grove School. Credit: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

An academy trust has been given a pat on the back by Ofsted inspectors after taking “swift action” to restore order at a troubled Islington school.

Andrew McMurtrie is the new chairman of the City of London Academies Trust, which oversees the City

Andrew McMurtrie is the new chairman of the City of London Academies Trust, which oversees the City of London Academy Islington and Highbury Grove School. - Credit: Archant

In stark contrast to the regulatory body’s damning report, which put Highbury Grove School in special measures back in February, inspectors in September found a “well-ordered environment in which pupils behave well”.

The monitoring report – a statutory requirement after a school has been placed in special measures – focused on the impact made by the City of London Academies Trust, which has taken over the reins at the school and is in the process of fully converting Highbury Grove to an academy by the end of the autumn term.

A large part of the report placed emphasis on the new disciplinary measures put in place to improve behaviour at the school.

Students line up at the start of the day, end of break and end of lunch and are led into lessons by their teachers, to deter late starts and truanting.

“Expectations for pupil conduct around school are high,” according to the report, which also notes the “remind, warning, detention” scheme that has been in place since the start of term.

Despite the largely positive nature of the report, leaders were reminded that the school’s attendance record, which remains below the national average, still needs “urgent attention”.

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It also came to light during the inspection that some students did not have access to required medication, but “swift and urgent action by leaders ensured that the situation was corrected”.

Since September there have been 34 new members of staff appointed at the school, with Clare Verga – principal of the City of London Academy Islington since September 2012 – introduced as “executive principal”.

According to the report, Miss Verga has developed strategies “to ensure that staff and pupils all have a common understanding of behaviour expectations”, with staff empowered by her “strong leadership” and “high-quality training”.

Trust chairman Andrew McMurtrie said: “We are naturally delighted with the report and it is evidence that we are taking positive steps to help take the school out of special measures.

“It demonstrates to parents that we are making real progress in improving behaviour and academic achievement at the school.

“The trust is fully committed to providing access to excellent education and learning opportunities for children and young people. We will continue to work closely with Islington Council, parents and the leadership of the school to ensure that it continues to make improvements.”

The trust is currently in position at Highbury Grove – set to be dubbed the City of London Academy Highbury Grove – under a “service level agreement”, with the transition due to be completed by December.