Fighting pupils, vaping on school grounds and an absence of teacher support have led to a school being rated "inadequate" by a regulator.

Longfield Academy, Darlington, received the rating from Ofsted this week after several concerns were raised over the school’s leadership and continuous disorder among pupils.

A damning report from inspectors, who visited the school across two days in April, said pupils’ behaviour had “deteriorated” since returning after Covid-19 lockdowns, with the school’s leaders criticised for not doing enough to tackle disruption to lessons.

But leaders at the school insist it is now on track to turn around its record of bad behaviour after appointing a new headteacher just weeks after the inspection. 

Behavioural incidents and suspensions at the school were “too high”, the inspectors said, and incidents of bullying were rife.

Read more: Darlington headteacher sends controversial text about girls school uniform

The report added: “Some pupils say action is not taken when they report their concerns. Pupils spoken with say that feel safe at the school, but a significant minority of pupils do not respect their school environment.”

Certain areas of the school became off limits to pupils after several incidents of vaping, fights between pupils and truancy from lessons.

“Pupils shared their concerns with inspectors about bullying, including the widespread use of discriminatory and offensive language,” the report said. “While pupils felt safe and knew a trusted adult they could speak to, they did not always feel their concerns were taken seriously.

“Vandalism, litter and the use of electronic cigarettes has led to areas of the school being put off limits to pupils at social times.”

Besides the behavioural issues, Ofsted said pupils were not yet benefiting from a good education, and expectations for pupils were not high enough. The quality of education and personal development of pupils were rated ‘requires improvement’.

Staff told inspectors they didn’t feel well supported by leaders, and that their workload and well-being were not taken into consideration.

Governors and the school’s trust board were urged to improve standards and require further training to support school leaders.

To get more stories from Darlington direct to your email basket go here

Longfield appointed new headteacher Angela Sweeten in April, who has a wealth of experience in education after previously working at Hurworth School.

And now, school leaders insist significant changes are in place to address areas highlighted in the report, alongside a school improvement plan.

Parents have been kept fully informed and given assurances about the progress being made, the school's academy trust says. 

The Northern Echo: Angela Sweeten was appointed as new headteacher in April. Picture: Peter BarronAngela Sweeten was appointed as new headteacher in April. Picture: Peter Barron

In response, Dean Judson, Swift Academies CEO, said: “On the 5th and 6th April 2022 Longfield Academy was inspected by Ofsted, we published the report and an accompanying letter to parent/carers on the 18th July 2022.   

“The report portrays a period of time following a difficult return from the pandemic, during which the academy had a sustained period of staff absence during January and February 2022.  

“The Trust appointed a new Head Teacher, Angela Sweeten, on the 25th April, and since that time - with the overwhelming support that Angela has received from the school’s community - we have implemented a School Improvement Plan that covers the areas of improvement highlighted in the Ofsted report and outlines the actions that we have already taken to address them. 

“As part of the next steps for the school, we will be visited by a team from Ofsted to verify how we are progressing, we look forward to their visits and we are also encouraging parents/carers and the local community to visit us to see the giant strides we have made and will continue to make moving forward.”  

How Ofsted rated Longfield Academy:

The quality of education Requires improvement

Behaviour and attitudes Inadequate

Personal development Requires improvement

Leadership and management Inadequate

Angela Sweeten Head Teacher added: “Since April 2022, under my leadership, the school has gone through a rapid transformation. Longfield Academy has the benefit of an experienced head teacher who has a proven track record and legacy of school improvement. 

"The report does not reflect Longfield Academy in July 2022, nor the one that children will attend in September.

"I would like to assure all parents/carers, current and future, that the culture of Longfield School is changing rapidly to one where teachers love to teach, children have a thirst to learn, every child is listened to and supported, and parent/carers are welcomed through the door”.   

Read next: 

Have you been affected by this? Why not leave a comment on this story. Go to the top of this story and leave your thoughts

If you want to read more great stories, why not subscribe to your Northern Echo for as little as £1.25 a week. Click here