A Kettering secondary school is hoping to turn its Ofsted rating on its head after recording its best GCSE results in the summer.
Kettering Buccleuch Academy was rated as inadequate by education standards inspectors in June 2014, with the achievements of pupils highlighted as a particular area to focus on.
The Northants Telegraph was given a tour of the school last week, and it is clear that staff are desperate to improve their reputation and show parents just how well they can perform.
A total of 52 per cent of students achieved five or more A* to C grades, a rise of 10 percentage points on 2014’s results.
And assistant headteacher Phil Henton believes the academy is benefiting from a ‘total transformation’.
He said: “We have nearly 1,400 students here and there is a purposeful, calm atmosphere.
We are expecting Ofsted to come in again at some point this year and we’re fully prepared to make a big jump from our current rating.Phil Henton
“To get the grades we achieved in the summer is outstanding and we have come a long way from the Ofsted report in 2014.
“We are really keen to raise the aspirations of our students and we know that word is getting out there among parents that we are rapidly improving.
“We are expecting Ofsted to come in again at some point this year and we’re fully prepared to make a big jump from our current rating.”
The academy has seen a high turnover of staff over the past year, with more than 50 teaching staff leaving.
But Mr Henton feels the changes were necessary to turn the school around.
He said: “There’s been a large turnover and we will only appoint high-quality staff who will provide the best experience for students and fun in learning.
“This is a really vibrant learning environment now and there is a much tighter focus on students making progress but a greater sense of community as well.
“We’ve changed the leadership structure and we’ve got a real drive coming from the top.
“Yes, we’ve had a lot of staff leave, but it’s allowed us the capacity to really move forwards.”
The academy also saw a quarter of all A-Level entries awarded A* or A grades, a significant increase on 2014.
Ofsted had previously criticised the achievements of the sixth form, but deputy assistant Dino Di Salvo says they are now a hotbed for post-16 education.
He added: “We have a school improvement plan so we have shifted our teaching and learning and that’s paid off with our outstanding results. We want all of our students to go on to study at a top Russell Group university.
“We have 124 students studying at AS-Level this year which is our biggest cohort ever and shows we are doing more to attract students.”
Sixth form student Ellie Allday feels the academy does a lot to ease students’ paths into adult life.
She said: “The school feels like much more of a family and we are all united as one. The older years team up to bond with the younger years and I think that helps everyone.
“The school puts on many clubs for everyone and there are university trips to help us decide where we want to go after our A-Levels.”
Many county schools implemented a strict enforcement of uniform policy at the start of term and drew criticism for the way they dealt with the matter.
At Bucchleuch, however, uniform isn’t a problem.
From our tour it’s obvious the pupils take care in their appearance, with each house in the hugely popular system having their own tie.
Mr Di Salvo says preparation and dialogue with parents has meant their policy hasn’t caused an issue.
He said: “We set our expectation for uniform a year early and haven’t had a single uniform problem so far.
“We gave the parents enough notice to allow them to work with us on this, you have to work with the community on this and can’t give two weeks’ notice.
“A few people from other schools have asked to come in and view our house system because it’s so popular.”
Ofsted’s report said pupils needed to be challenged more – so Bucchleuch has introduced a new Combined Cadet Force to bring students out of their comfort zone. The scheme currently runs in partnership with Oakham School although the Kettering academy hopes to not only be independent, but also one of the biggest in the country, in a few years time.
Pupil Andre Lagmay says the initiative has made him more confident.
He said: “I’ve made loads of new friends by doing this and I’ve really been able to conquer some fears.
“I’ve learned to take responsibility for my actions and how to take care of myself.
“It’s definitely made me more confident as a person, which is great.”
The school does not project a sense that it is failing, with a positive attitude in the classrooms that can only benefit the pupils and their attitude to learning.
And if the academy’s plans come off as staff hope, the results may just get even better.