Astrea Academy Dearne Kicks Off New Term with “Good” Endorsement

 ++ National Charity praises “rapidly improving” Barnsley secondary school ++

++ Astrea Dearne has a “calm, purposeful and inclusive climate for learning” ++

A Goldthorpe secondary school recognised as “Requires Improvement” by Ofsted is celebrating being judged as “Good” in all categories as part of an external review by national education charity, Challenge Partners, marking a positive start to the new term.

Astrea Academy Dearne – previously The Dearne Advanced Learning Centre – joined the Astrea Academy Trust in February 2019, just five months before this review took place. The predecessor school received its second “Requires Improvement” judgement following its Ofsted inspection in December 2016. The academy has quickly turned around under Principal Joanne Wilson’s leadership, with the support of Astrea.

The professionally-led peer review praised the school for rapidly improving and being very well led by the Principal. Inspectors also pointed to an ambitious curriculum which develops pupils’ knowledge, skills and understanding. School leaders are also praised for their successful engagement with parents and the local community, with considerable success, leading to them being awarded the national ’Leading Parent Partnership Award.’

Challenge Partners is a national charity that works with over 400 schools nationally, carrying out annual Quality Assurance reviews of schools focusing on teaching and learning. Astrea Academy Dearne is part of the Astrea Academy Trust, a family of 27 schools in South Yorkshire and Cambridgeshire.

As part of the review carried out at the end of the last academic year (June), a school inspector and independent peer reviewers noted the following:

  • Staff share a passion for the school’s success, shown through relentless positivity. They feel valued and supported. Staff are committed to the community and helping pupils to aim high.
  • Leaders know the school well and have a clear vision for its future.
  • The school’s work on careers education, advice and guidance is particularly effective. Pupils benefit from a range of opportunities such as work shadowing, work experience and talks from local employers.
  • School leaders, rightly, have focussed on literacy. There has been considerable success in Year 7’s progress in reading. All pupils read widely and often in tutor time.
  • Pupils behave well in lessons; they are motivated and keen to learn. They collaborate well, demonstrating positive attitudes in class, built on very respectful relationships between staff and pupils, and amongst their peers.
  • The calm, purposeful and inclusive climate for learning is contributing significantly to the progress pupils make. Teachers know their pupils well and plan work to encourage them to raise their aspirations.
  • Teachers check pupils’ understanding frequently and adapt their teaching accordingly. They are also skilful in building upon pupils’ prior knowledge.
  • Pupils with SEND are well supported. They receive bespoke, targeted support. As a result, these pupils are making particularly good progress.

Challenge Partners’ findings also resonate with the improvement that Astrea Academy Dearne is seeing academically. Despite children starting school with skills that are lower than typically expected, pupils are making progress. GCSE outcomes show pupils’ attainment has improved dramatically, with over two thirds of pupils leaving school with good pass grades and able to access ambitious college places.  In particular, pupils have made major gains in maths over the last three years. Increasing numbers of pupils are also studying for the English Baccalaureate because teachers are encouraging them to raise their aspirations.

Astrea Academy Dearne has been accredited with as having an ‘Area of Excellence’ for alternative provision for pupils with SEND, which is a significant area of strength in a school with a high proportion of pupils who have additional social, emotional and mental health issues. The academy is praised for developing a bespoke, high-quality provision, taught by subject specialist staff, for their most vulnerable pupils. The model is designed to be short term and supports children back into mainstream where they can thrive. It has been so successful that several other local schools are now developing a similar model of their own.

Libby Nicholas, Chief Executive of Astrea said:

“This ‘Good’ judgement is absolutely fantastic for Joanne, her staff and all the pupils at Astrea Academy Dearne. After two “RI” ratings prior to joining Astrea, this report shows just how far they have come in a short time under Joanne’s leadership and with our support.

“These significant improvements are excellent and considering many pupils enter school at a low starting point, this endorsement is a wonderful accolade of all their hard work.

“Our commitment at Astrea is that every one of our academies will provide an education that inspires beyond measure, I know that Joanne and her team are working tirelessly to do the same – and it is obviously paying off. Huge congratulations to Joanne and her team.”

Joanne Wilson, Principal of Astrea Academy Dearne, said:

“As a Principal who has loved working with many different groups in our community during the last year, my proudest moment this year has been recognised in this report when a child, who was asked to sum up what the academy meant to them, without hesitation, stated ‘equality’. A significant part of our work during the last few years has been on improving teaching, and on creating positive attitudes to learning. I am so pleased this hard work has been recognised and this is a wonderful way to begin the new term.

“A year ago, we embarked on developing a specialised approach to working proactively with children identified as having special educational needs. I am truly overjoyed that we have been accredited as an Area of Excellence in this field. This is an amazing achievement for the academy, the staff, the children, parents and carers.”