AN ACADEMY trust has been appointed as the preferred sponsor to take over Northallerton School, which must become an academy after being placed in special measures.

The Regional Schools Commissioner has agreed to allow Northallerton School to join the Arete Learning Trust, a multi-academy trust made up of Richmond and Stokesley secondary schools, after Ofsted judged the Northallerton school inadequate.

The Arete Learning Trust was established when Stokesley School converted to an academy in April 2015.

Ofsted found a catalogue of failings at Northallerton School and Sixth Form College, following an inspection earlier this year and inspectors recommended the school improved safeguarding “as a matter of urgency”.

In a damming report, it rated the school inadequate in personal development, behaviour and welfare; quality of teaching, planning and assessment; effective leadership and management and outcomes for pupils aged 16 to 19. As a result the school was placed in special measures.

The county council had implemented an urgent recovery plan for the school just before the end of last year and replaced the leadership roles at the school.

Days after the interim team was put in place, an Ofsted inspection took place and failed the school in all five areas of investigation.

Ofsted have been back to monitor the school. North Yorkshire County Council said the school was praised for “significant progress” in safeguarding students and improving behaviour since the school was placed in special measures earlier this year.

The interim executive principal, Keith Prytherch, senior leadership team and Interim Executive Board brought in by the county council were credited with improving safeguarding and the culture and ethos of the school.

Inspectors paid tribute to the new chair of the Interim Executive Board, Paul Bartlett, who is also a director on the board of Areté Learning Trust, who had made safeguarding a top priority and was “highly focused and committed” to the rapid improvement of the school. They commended support from the local authority.

Inspectors also praised the development of ‘child-centred’ safeguarding and zero tolerance of bullying.

They noted the effective team work of new safeguarding, attendance and year group leaders in support of vulnerable pupils. They highlighted a “peer-mentoring and restorative approach” to support students to improve behaviour. This includes appointing sixth formers as lunch-time supervisors. As a result, says Ofsted, pupils feel safe, the atmosphere in school is calm and students are engaged in their learning.

Ofsted stated that the school must continue the good work on behaviour and attendance and the Executive Board is therefore pressing ahead with its improvement plan

The announcement about Areté Learning Trust as Northallerton’s preferred sponsor follows the appointment of a new permanent principal, Chris Drew, and vice-principal, Vicki Rahn, for Northallerton from next September.

Chris Drew, was head of the King’s Academy in Middlesbrough which was graded good during the whole of his ten-year tenure. Vicki Rahn, who has broad experience in senior leadership, was acting principal of Caedmon College, Whitby.

“We are very happy that Ofsted recognises the very real progress that has been made at Northallerton School and we can look forward to the new academic year very positively under our new permanent leadership” said Paul Bartlett. “We wish to thank Keith Prytherch for his excellent leadership in steering the school through the challenges of this year and we welcome Chris Drew as our new principal.

“We all know there is more to do but we want to thank our school staff and senior leaders for their very hard work and focus and we look forward to moving forward towards academy status with Areté.

“Under Areté Learning Trust, Northallerton would become part of a close family of schools, sharing expertise with Richmond and Stokesley to draw on each other’s strengths. We will work hand in hand with the local authority and with our staff, students, families and partner agencies in the months ahead to move towards these new arrangements, to secure further improvement.”

Chris Drew said he looked forward to taking up his post as principal in September: “There is a strong focus on improvement in the school and everybody pulling together as a community and as a leadership team we will be building on the good work and dedication of staff, students, the executive board and the county council to move the school forward.”

“We welcome Ofsted’s findings” said County Councillor Patrick Mulligan, North Yorkshire’s executive member for schools.

“A great deal has been achieved and we will continue to work with our key partners and Areté Learning Trust to ensure these improvements continue.”