ONE of Oxfordshire’s biggest schools has ‘disappointed’ the local MP after being handed a critical Ofsted report, which has seen it fall from ‘outstanding’ to ‘requires improvement’.

King Alfred’s Academy in Wantage was heavily criticised in the report, leaked to the Herald ahead of official publication.

However, Ofsted also praised aspects of the school and rated the sixth form ‘outstanding’.

Run by the Vale Academy Trust – which controls a number of other schools across the county – King Alfred’s ‘overall effectiveness’, ‘effectiveness of leadership and management’, ‘quality of teaching, learning and assessment’, ‘personal development, behaviour and welfare’ and ‘outcomes for pupils’ were all deemed to require improvement, following the inspection in May.

The inspection began as a smaller, ‘section 8’, before the lead inspector ‘had concerns about pupils’ educational outcomes’ and upgraded it to a full, ‘section 5’ inspection.

Lead inspector Catherine Old wrote: “Overall, pupils do not make the progress that they should.

“Disadvantaged pupils do not make strong progress. Pupils who have special educational needs (SEN) and/ or disabilities are not supported to make good progress.

“Over time, leaders have not ensured that the quality of teaching and of pupils’ outcomes are high enough.”

The report continues: “The impact of weak teaching on disadvantaged pupils is compounded further as these pupils are not helped to catch up, and they fall further behind their peers.

“Too often [typically] middle-ability boys are not challenged or supported effectively to improve the quality of their work.”

Ofsted also criticised leaders and governors, said teaching was ‘inconsistent’ and made suggestions about provisions for disadvantaged students.

The school converted to an academy in August 2011 and this is their first full inspection since.

Wantage MP Ed Vaizey said: “Although it is disappointing that King Alfred’s Ofsted overall rating has declined from outstanding to requires improvement, I am very pleased that the sixth form has risen from good to outstanding.

“Given recent events I am encouraged that student welfare has generally been praised and I look forward to seeing improvements in other issues raised in the report”.

Effusive praise for the sixth form was one of a number of positives in the report, which states: “[Sixth form] students make excellent progress and achieve highly… teaching is especially strong.”

Ofsted praised the school’s ‘thoughtful’ curriculum and added: “Pupils’ welfare and safety has the highest priority.

“Recent changes and improvements in leadership have enabled leaders to convincingly demonstrate that they have the capacity to make rapid improvement to the school.

“Leaders have been effective in improving behaviour.”

The inspectors visited just five months after the near-2,000 pupil school sold its East Site to a housing developer last year and had to move the 652 pupils in Years 7 and 8 to one of its other two sites.

Among the sensitive topics was student welfare, after three teenage students took their lives in the past three years: Dylan Edwards, 15, Ela Ozbayraktar, 16, and 13-year-old Conor Page.

The inspection also came just a month after headteacher Jo Halliday left the school in April.

In a statement, King Alfred’s sought to put a positive spin on the findings, focussing on the positives in an email to parents, who have been sent a copy of the document.

The school wrote: "Given the unique circumstances the school community has faced over the last three years, we are pleased that the report recognises that students’ welfare is given the highest priority and that personal, social and health education plays a major part in ensuring students are happy, safe and well cared-for.

"King Alfred’s recognises the need to improve student academic outcomes, especially for specific groups of students such as pupil premium students, and King Alfred’s is pleased that Ofsted has endorsed the measures it is already taking to do this. The academy has embraced the actions outlined in the report and had already started to see rapid progress in these areas, as acknowledged during the inspection."

It added: "We are delighted that the sixth form has moved from ‘good’ to ‘outstanding’, reflecting high quality teaching and learning resulting in the excellent outcomes for our students, most of whom stay on from Year 11."

The school, which is now in the middle of a £17m building programme at its Centre and West Sites following the closure of East, also pointed to ‘several structural changes’ implemented during this year.

It noted that it had appointed ‘a very experienced new headteacher’ Rick Holroyd to start in September, speeded up transitions between lessons by moving to two sites (with less complex staff and student schedules planned for next year), strategised an approach to focus on the groups Ofsted had highlighted, and planned to work closely with parents and students to improve experience and outcomes.

However, parents have criticised the school in the wake of the findings.

One mum, who asked not to be named, said: "They are putting all their efforts into statistics and not into the happiness of their students.

"My main concern is the lack of emotional support and life skills support. Students don’t get taught to understand that this is part of life.

"There is no provision, teachers don’t have the time to listen and talk."

Wantage town mayor Chris McCarthy did not respond to a request for comment.

The report is expected to be published in the coming days.