Dagenham junior school upgraded to ‘good’ after controversial academy conversion

Dorothy Barley Junior Academy has been rated "good" by Ofsted in a report published on Monday.

Dorothy Barley Junior Academy has been rated "good" by Ofsted in a report published on Monday. - Credit: Archant

Teachers have overcome “immense challenges” to transform their school’s fortunes, an Ofsted report has found.

Dorothy Barley Junior Academy in Dagenham was judged “good” in every single area in its first inspection since becoming an academy, Monday’s report shows.

The 429 seven to 11-year-old pupils are making good progress in all subjects at the Ivinghoe Road school, including children with special needs and disabilities.

“There was initially much turbulence and a high turnover of staff, so learning remained poor,” notes the report, adding that by September 2014 the “stable” staff had helped build up a new leadership team under headteacher Cathy Leicester, who are “passionate” and help every pupil to reach their academic potential and to “excel” in personal development.

A “positive culture permeates the school” and staff morale is “high”, inspectors found following last month’s visit.

Pupils feel “safe and secure” and they enjoy a range of “stimulating experiences”. The report highlights opportunities in sports and music, as well as outings including a healthy-eating trip to the supermarket, a junior citizenship day with police, firefighters and social services, and an opportunity to perform in the O2 arena for a “young singers” competition.

While pupils develop a strong understanding of many British values, their cultural development is “not as strong”.

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“They have a limited knowledge and understanding of current affairs and the diversity of faiths found in the UK”, despite being in a “diverse and harmonious” school.

The academy is “much larger than the average-sized primary school”, but has driven improvements “with energy and determination” since its predecessor, the Dorothy Barley Junior School, was judged “inadequate”.

The conversion to a for-profit academy faced a huge backlash initially, with 84 per cent voted against the proposals in a consultation in 2013 – despite the school being placed in special measures in 2012 for the third time in eight years.

But the report’s findings focus on the positive outcomes of the conversion.

“Since the school became an academy, the headteacher, ably supported by all other teachers, has driven forward significant improvements with energy and determination,” it notes.

“Pupils have positive attitudes to learning. They behave well, work hard and are keen to succeed.”