INSPECTORS have found that a former private school has undergone “significant turbulence” in its transition to becoming a free school that now requires improvement.

Officers from education watchdog Ofsted visited Polam Hall School, in Darlington, last month to assess all aspects of the school and how its pupils are coping.

A report published following the visit has revealed that the school is failing in five of the six key areas that Ofsted inspect, including quality of teaching, effectiveness of leadership and personal development of pupils.

Outcomes for pupils and study for 16 to 19-year-olds were also given a “requires improvement” rating, with early years provision the only element of the school rated as good.

Inspectors raised concerns over the legacy left in the wake of Polam converting from a fee-paying independent school to becoming a free school with 722 students aged four to 19.

Within the report, Michael Wardle, lead inspector, stated: “The school has undergone significant turbulence over the past three years.

“Leaders did not make sure that teachers were adequately prepared for the change from being a fee-paying independent school to a free school.

“The school roll increased significantly at that time, and teachers were not ready to provide for the wide range of educational needs that new pupils brought.

“Many teachers and leaders lacked the skills, experience and knowledge to meet the needs of the pupils."

The report also found that pupils’ behaviour required improvement, with some visibly “uninterested” in lessons.

However inspectors noted students were “courteous, friendly, polite and helpful”.

Principal Kate Reid was also praised within the report for “wasting no time” in identifying weaknesses at school and dealing with them.

Ofsted inspectors added: “She leads the school with tenacity, intelligence and a strong moral compass.”

Ms Reid responded to Ofsted inspection with a promise to ensure Polam School, off Grange Road, delivers on high expectations held by pupils, their parents and staff.

She said: “Polam Hall is a school with a wonderful heritage and a bright future.

“We have fantastic pupils, who all deserve the very best and a supportive parent body.

“Ofsted have recognised the progress that we have made this year and our focused action plan will lead to further continuous improvement.

“I am determined that Polam will be a school which not only nurtures the development and welfare of each child, but also one where high expectations ensure excellent progress for all.”

The Ofsted inspection in mid-April is the school's first.