Coverage of our recent Ofsted in the Evening Chronicle

The following article appeared in the Evening Chronicle this week, who covered the academy’s recent ‘Good’ grade from Ofsted. You can read it on the Chronicle website here.

Birtley school celebrates good Ofsted judgement in all areas 

Students, staff and governors at Lord Lawson of Beamish Academy are celebrating their school’s ‘Good’ grading from their recent Ofsted inspection.

The report from the inspection has just been published. The school in Birtley was last judged ‘Good’ in 2013. Since then, it has twice been judged as ‘Requires Improvement.’

Guy Currey, chair of governors, said: “The fundamental changes in the school have required an inspirational Principal and leadership team bringing the staff and students with them.”

The school’s principal, Andrew Fowler, said: “This is an excellent inspection result for our whole community, and a step on our journey to becoming an outstanding provision. Birtley and Gateshead have a school they can point to with justifiable pride. It has taken courage and determination to improve this school. We are now giving our students the quality of education they deserve.”

Inspectors noted that school leaders have made huge improvements by focusing on taking the right decisions at the right time. As a result, “pupils receive a good standard of education. Staff and pupils welcome the positive changes that leaders have made.”

Sue Nellist, a longstanding senior leader at the school, said: “To see Lord Lawson return to a ‘Good’ Ofsted grading is the highlight of my career. Staff and students have worked incredibly hard to make these improvements, through the pandemic and since, and they deserve this result.”

High standards of teaching and learning

During the two-day inspection in November 2022, inspectors praised the school’s ambitious curriculum, the consistent structure of lessons, and the high standards of teaching and learning. They commended the many ways in which “leaders have worked hard to improve behaviour and attendance.”

They were impressed with the school’s sixth form, where students “speak eloquently and proudly of their school. They value the support that they receive in preparing for their future destinations.”

The school’s broad and excellent programme of extra-curricular activities and wider opportunities was praised. As well as performing arts and sports, “there are many opportunities for pupils to develop leadership skills. Some pupils are librarians, while others are well-being ambassadors.”

Josh and Madeleine, student ambassadors, said: “It’s good to be trusted to bring the opinions and feelings of other students, and to help make changes in our school.”

An inclusive environment

Inspectors were impressed with the ways in which pupils help one other. They wrote that “a newly formed ‘Pride Group’ promotes tolerance and acceptance in this inclusive school that celebrates difference.” One of the Pride Group members, Sebastian, said: “I am so pleased to study at a school that celebrates pride because I feel safe and fully included in the school community.”

During their visit, inspectors scrutinised lessons and spoke with staff, pupils and governors. They praised the school’s “strong culture of safeguarding” in which staff are well trained and “pupils learn how to keep themselves safe, including when they are online.” Bullying is rare, the report says, and “pupils know that there is always a trusted adult that they can speak to if they have any concerns. Pupils are confident that staff with help them.”

Inspectors reported the exceptionally positive attitudes of staff. They wrote that “staff are well-supported by leaders. Teaching staff benefit from the training they receive. They are excited to be part of the school’s ongoing improvements.”

Head of maths Deborah Jackson echoed this: “Last summer’s results were excellent and I was very proud of our students for doing so well after the disruption to their education due to the pandemic. It was great that Ofsted were also able to see that progress and to recognise that we are a (very) good school. It has been fantastic working here.”

Where pupils flourish

Inspectors also wanted to see how the school helps an increasing number of pupils who need extra support. They found that “leaders ensure that teaching staff have the knowledge to help pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities. Teachers and teaching assistants work together to ensure that pupils with SEND are well supported in lessons.”

Reading is important at Lord Lawson. Inspectors commended the imaginative ways that leaders develop a love of reading across the school for all pupils, and help pupils catch up with their reading if they have fallen behind. “As a result, pupils quickly learn to read. Older pupils enjoy their role as reading ambassadors. They develop strong bonds with younger pupils as they help them with their reading.”

Lord Lawson of Beamish Academy is fortunate to have excellent buildings and facilities in which pupils can learn. Inspectors said “pupils’ behaviour in lessons is calm and lessons are rarely disrupted. Most pupils are polite and respectful to staff and to each other.”

A parent said: “I chose to send my children here and have enjoyed watching them flourish as individuals. I am immensely proud of our school, that genuinely cares about young people.”

Teacher Liam Cumiskey summed up: “I have worked at Lord Lawson for six years and have witnessed a significant improvement of the whole school. Both staff and students feel valued and respected. Senior leaders are experts in their fields and are approachable. I feel a genuine togetherness between the school and its community. Lord Lawson is a wonderful place to work. Achieving ‘Good’ was a real team effort. I feel proud to work at Lord Lawson.”