The school was visited by the inspection team at the end of September, and although the inspectors rated the school as Good in four of the five areas they reviewed, overall, they concluded that the school was Inadequate.
The Ofsted report revealed that the school needs to improve in a number of areas, including safeguarding, as it stated that "leaders have not put effective arrangements in place to safeguard pupils" and "some staff do not understand the range of safeguarding risks that pupils may face, or their responsibilities to take action to protect pupils."
The report also stated that although the curriculum for reading is planned well to help confident readers to further develop their skills, "pupils who cannot read fluently are not supported well enough" and "leaders have not ensured that staff use a consistent approach to enable pupils to quickly learn to read."
These number of concerns prompted inspectors to give the school the lowest rating in its first inspection since the school became an academy in 2012.
Chris Ives, Acting Headteacher, said: “Given that the school has not had a full inspection for over 15 years, and that Ofsted’s new Education Inspection Framework included a recent ‘recalibration’ of Outstanding grading's, both the Trust and the school knew this would be a challenging inspection.
“That being said, the inspectors praised many aspects of school life, including the superb behaviour of pupils, the staff expertise, the overall quality of education and the wonderful opportunities available to all our pupils.
"Thank you and well done to all in our brilliant St. Aidan’s community.”
The inspection rated the following:
Overall effectiveness - Inadequate
Quality of education – Good
Behaviour and attitudes – Good
Personal development – Good
Leadership and management – Inadequate
Sixth-form provision – Good
Some of the positive comments to come from the inspection included that there are positive relationships between pupils and staff; staff have high expectations of pupils’ behaviour and academic achievements; there is a calm and purposeful atmosphere around the school and students enjoy their sixth form experience and the wide range of qualifications they study and they are well prepared for their next steps in education, employment and training.
Mr Ives added: “The team of inspectors, however, felt that St. Aidan’s approach to safeguarding was, in some areas, not consistently in line with best practice.
“Although leaders provided the inspection team with evidence in support of the school’s procedures and processes and were able to demonstrate that those measures were effective, the inspection team was not satisfied and drew the conclusion that St. Aidan’s pupils might be at an increased risk.
“Whilst we all strongly refute the Inadequate judgement, we cannot ignore the concerns that have been raised.
"As always, we will work to fully explore potential improvements and we always implement advice that will help us continue to provide care that is of the highest level.
"The Trust and school leaders have also put into place additional external assurance for the areas where inspectors raised serious concerns.”
As part of the inspection, over 300 parents and carers shared their views of the school with the inspectors via ParentView; 98% of whom said that their child was happy, 96% said that they would recommend the school to others, and 99% said their child felt safe at St. Aidan’s.
Jo Wicks, Chair of Governors, said: “It would be fair to say that the overall outcome of our inspection is highly unusual, and fills us with a mixture of pride, bitter disappointment and exasperation in equal measures.
“This is not the judgement we were expecting, nor is it one that we think fairly represents our school.
"We have, and will continue to, take positive steps to try and oppose this judgement, but we are also pragmatic and practical.
"We simply do not think it is right to spend significant time and effort on what would be an expensive legal process, and think it is important that the community see the report as soon as we have been permitted to publish it.”
The school’s grading as Inadequate means that St. Aidan’s will now be subject to increased scrutiny.
This includes more frequent Ofsted visits and the school will also publish an action plan detailing the steps it will take to respond to the concerns raised in the report.
Mr Ives added: “The overall grade is deeply disappointing, and one that we are saddened by.
"What we find most difficult is that our students were a credit to themselves and our community throughout the whole process.
"Our staff shone in their classrooms, and our parents and carers couldn’t have done more to support the school.
“We genuinely feel that St. Aidan’s is a blessing to be part of – which is why the overall grade sits at such odds with everything we experience on a day-to-day basis.
"We will, of course, respond fully to the report and build on all our strengths with pace and purpose so that the next Ofsted inspection fully reflects all that we believe is true about St. Aidan’s.”
The full report can be found at https://www.staidans.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/St-Aidans-Ofsted-Report-2021.pdf