AN academy rated as “inadequate” by Ofsted last November has announced its principal and an assistant principal are stepping down on health grounds.

This morning students at St Aidan’s Church of England Academy in Hundens Lane, Darlington, were told the principal, Catherine McCoy, and her assistant principal, Stephanie Francom, who were both on sick leave last term, were leaving because of ill health.

St Aidan’s was set up in 2007, to replace the failing Eastbourne Comprehensive School, and is now housed in an impressive £16m modern campus.

In a statement issued to The Northern Echo a spokesman for St Aidan’s said: “Governors regret to announce that after a long period managing a serious medical condition, assistant principal Ms Stephanie Francom is now unable to continue working and will be stepping down at the end of February. We thank her for all her hard and loyal work whilst wishing her a full recovery and all the best for the future.

“Following a period of ill health and in order to ensure a full recovery, principal Ms Catherine McCoy will be leaving St Aidan’s at the end of February. Governors are most grateful to her for her service and wish her well for the future.”

The 597 pupil secondary school, which was judged inadequate in its quality of teaching, pupils’ behaviour and safety and pupil achievement after a visit by Ofsted last year,is currently being led by assistant principal Nicole Gibbon.

Mrs Gibbon has been a member of the senior leadership team at St Aidan’s since she was appointed in September 2011.

A spokesman for St Aidan’s said the process of recruitment and appointment to the senior leadership team will now start and announcements will be made in due course.

In their report in November last year, Ofsted concluded that the quality of teaching and student achievement had declined since 2013 and too few students in 2014 attained the Government’s minimum expectations.

Inspectors also said: “Some students become disinterested in lessons; their persistent low-level disruptive behaviour hinders the progress of others.”

GCSE results last summer confirmed a downturn in the performance of students.

In 2013 43 per cent of eligible students obtained five or more A*-C GCSEs or equivalent including maths and English but that figure went down to 37 per cent last year.

In October last year an unsigned protest letter from teachers and support staff declaring their “profound lack of confidence” in the school’s leaders was sent to governors and The Northern Echo.

In response to the poor Ofsted report the academy invited the principal of Whitburn Church of England Academy, a school in the Durham diocese rated as “outstanding” by Ofsted, to support St Aidan’s in its efforts to improve.

Darlington MP Jenny Chapman has told the academy’s leaders that she expects to see “significant improvements in behaviour, attendance and attainment” in the near future.