Ofsted joy as Doncaster school makes history as inspections restart

It's a big week for the staff and pupils at Morley Place Academy in Conisbrough.

By David Kessen
Wednesday, 16th June 2021, 6:00 am

Since Ofsted first started inspecting the school, it has had many different grades over the years, some of them under categories that no longer exist.

Over that time, they have never classed it as ‘good’.

But this week, that all changes.

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Year three and Four pupils pictured at Morley Place Academy. Picture: NDFP-15-06-21-MorleyPlace 3-NMSY

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After what has been one of the first full, face to face, inspections since the global coronavirus pandemic struck, Morley Place is recognised as the ‘good’ school it is.

This week, there have been smiles all round the building on Old Road, Conisbrough, on the faces of the staff and the nearly 300 pupils.

Principal Lauren Penny said: “It had always been inadequate or satisfactory, although satisfactory no longer exists, they changed it to requires improvement – but this is the first time it’s been ‘good’.

Year Six Librarians pictured in the new School Library. Picture: NDFP-15-06-21-MorleyPlace 5-NMSY

"We are so proud to be rated good – and what’s more, we have achieved this through a global pandemic. The feeling here now is that the sky’s the limit.”

Face to Face Ofsted inspections were only re-introduced in May. Morley Place received a call on May 12 to tell them the inspectors would be with them for the following two days, May 13 and 14.

The school had previously been rated as inadequate in 2019, but Ofsted had been back for a ‘monitoring visit’ in February, when they told teachers and Mrs Penny’s deputy, Louise Wright, who was deputising at the time, that those responsible for governance were taking effective action to provide education in the current circumstances.

But officials at the school said staff were overjoyed to hear that Ofsted now rated the academy ‘good’ in all areas.

Morley Place Academy year Six pupils pictured with Jodie Griffiths, Class Teacher, Lauren Penny, Head of Academy and Louise Wright, Assistant Principal. Picture: NDFP-15-06-21-MorleyPlace 1-NMSY

Mrs Penny is not sure if they are the first school in the county to be rated as good since inspections resumed, but believes it is the first within the trust which runs it, Delta.

The report said that recent and “significant improvements to the curriculum” which had been designed to have maximum impact continued to challenge and inspire pupils.

The trust which runs the school says it is passionate about sharing examples of good practice, improving teaching and learning, and offering support and development.

Subject leaders in Morley Place worked with other trust schools and trust wide directors of learning to try to create an inspiring curriculum and help all children to make progress. The report said that had “really made a difference” with all staff now clearer about pupil expectations meaning that “aspirations were much higher”.

Morley Place Academy pupils pictured in the Thrive Room. Picture: NDFP-15-06-21-MorleyPlace 4-NMSY

The academy’s special educational needs coordinator had also played a significant role in steering the curriculum which had enabled pupils with special needs to “get the support that they need to access the ambitious curriculum”.

Pupils at the academy feel “happy and safe” in an inclusive environment where they are all valued, they said.

Inspectors noted a “calm and orderly” atmosphere with highly productive classrooms where “pupils enjoy learning”. The social and emotional needs of pupils were a “high priority” and support from teachers and teaching assistants was readily available.

The school says there is a renewed love for reading at Morley Place. Some pupils have been appointed as ‘pupil librarians’ and are “full of enthusiasm for their role” in contributing to academy life.

Pupils are also taught about real-life issues including equality,and diversity, which they said helps them to understand the wider world around them, say inspectors.

Mrs Penny feels that the school has made massive progress since January

Year Three and Four pupils pictured by the Outdoor Learning Zone and Trim Trail. Picture: NDFP-15-06-21-MorleyPlace 2-NMSY

She added: “We are absolutely thrilled with everything the academy has achieved in such a short period of time. This is a huge reflection on the hard work that staff, the community and of course our pupils, all put into making Morley Place such a wonderful place to work and learn. Being part of the Delta family of schools collectively we have transformed the education on offer for children in our academy."

Among the big changes that the school has seen has been a major refurbishment of its library.

That was only carried out in January, but Mrs Penny feels the changes have made it a more welcoming place with more books.

The pandemic is still affecting how it is run, though.

"We are still a bit limited,” said Mrs Penny. “At the moment, if a pupil takes a book out and borrows it, the book has to be put in quarantine for two days after it comes back.

"But we have had it completely transformed into a great space to sit and enjoy reading, with bean bags and height-level shelving."

There are plans for more improvements outside the school.

For instance, the school is looking to get its classes to plant 12 trees outside, and there are plans to develop a forest school there, which would help develop the pupils' outdoor skills.

They are also looking to create outdoor reading zones.

Looking further on, Mrs Penny is keen to see more activities set up, and hopes to have them in place for September, when it is hoped that the restrictions currently put in place due to the pandemic are removed.

She wants to roll out school clubs, and to bring nin ‘enterprise events’ for youngsters to pick up business skills. She hopes to see a young voices choir at the school, and to take pupils out on visits to universities, and even theatre visits.

Paul Tarn, chief executive at Delta, has sent congratulations to staff and pupils. “The school has a lovely atmosphere, and I am delighted that parents now have a school which is officially good in their community,” he said.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Liam Hoden, editor.