POOR achievement and a lack of leadership at a Spennymoor school have been identified in a damning Ofsted report released to parents.

Whitworth Park School and Sixth Form College has been rated 'Inadequate' following an inspection last December.

The school was judged to be 'Good' in 2013, but inspectors found that the long-term absences of the headteacher and deputy headteacher had hampered the quality of leadership since then.

They also said pupils had made significantly less progress than expected and highlighted a “legacy of weaker teaching”.

Ofsted is yet to publish the report but the school has published it on its website, along with a letter to parents from acting headteacher, David Stone, and the chair of the governors, Pamela Sneath.

The letter, sent on Friday, said: “We recognise the aspects outlined in the report and are resolute in our commitment to address them in the shortest time possible.”

It also outlined steps already taken to improve the school and listed the strengths and positive observations within the report.

These included praising the governors for holding leaders to account and effective action taken by the headteacher and the deputy to improve teaching and outcomes since their return. Support for lower-attaining pupils was also commended.

However, Spennymoor councillor Kevin Thompson said it was “disgraceful” that the letter made no mention of the potential consequences of the Education and Adoption Act. Passed last year, the Act states all schools judged inadequate by Ofsted will have to become a sponsored academy, run by a charitable trust.

Cllr Thompson added: “I’m particularly concerned that the letter only seems to reflect on the positives when the actual report is much more damning.”

Margaret Whellans, Durham County Council’s corporate director of children and young people’s services, reassured parents the authority was firmly committed to ensuring students receive the best possible education.

“We had recognised the need to provide additional support to the school in terms of leadership and teaching and learning before the inspection,” she said.

“We worked with the school and governors to produce a plan to secure improved performance which is already being delivered and which Ofsted recognised.

“Some of the issues raised in the report stem from long term absences in the school’s senior leadership which have since been addressed. A new interim structure is in place which is focused on delivering the progress the school needs to make as quickly as possible.”