Report is turning point for Soham Village College - but there are still improvements to be made

Soham Village College principal, Dr Carin Taylor, with pupils

Soham Village College principal, Dr Carin Taylor, with pupils - Credit: Archant

‘Less successful’ interventions including an English homework class and a spelling support group have been removed whilst the focus remains on helping disadvantaged pupils, states a follow-up Ofsted inspection at Soham Village College.

It follows a full inspection in May 2015 stating the school required improvement due to an “inconsistent” standard of teaching and a minority of staff not planning lessons that engage all students in their learning. However, the new report forms a turning point for the college – though there are still improvements to be made.

The report from December’s follow-up inspection credits teachers for providing useful written guidance to help pupils improve, but draws concerns about the attainment and absence of disadvantaged pupils.

It states attainment gaps are ‘steadily closing’ and absences are ‘improving over time’ for disadvantaged pupils, but shows concern about the high level of persistent absence - in 2014 double the amount of disadvantaged pupils were absent compared to their peers.

The report also details subject-area action plans, which are used to decide targets and strategies to meet the needs of disadvantaged pupils. Though, leaders, managers and governors could not provide separate analyses of children’s achievement.

A refined system for tracking the progress of pupils in English, maths and science has also began, which aims to deliver a ‘more useful, consistent approach’.

Strategies including study days for targeted pupils, teaching revision, examination skills and prioritising the marking of disadvantaged pupils’ work have proved most effective.

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Ofsted inspector John Daniell said: “Teachers know who the disadvantaged pupils are in their lessons and are able to access up-to-date tracking information on their performance.

“They include disadvantaged pupils in lessons as much as their peers, through appropriate questioning and well-targeted learning activities.”

However, two less successful interventions - a spelling, punctuation and grammar support group for year eight boys in English and an English homework club - have been reviewed and removed.

The proportion of fixed term exclusions has also reduced dramatically compared to the same time last year, including for disadvantaged pupils.

Other noted improvements were that unacceptable behaviour in lessons is being recorded electronically and the number of disadvantaged pupils who were not in education, employment or training at the end of 2015 was ‘minimal’.

The Regional Schools’ Commissioner recently set up an academy improvement board which has identified the achievement of disadvantaged pupils as a key focus area.

To improve further, the report states:

• Ensure that the gaps in disadvantaged pupils’ attainment and progress continue to close compared to other pupils nationally

• Reduce the proportion of disadvantaged pupils who are persistently absent

• Focus more sharply on the achievement of children who are looked after when analysing the performance of disadvantaged pupils