Sheffield school once judged as failing is now best in Yorkshire

Sheffield Park Academy students Zahra Aktar, Jak Bennett, Dekra Kolaib, Sakia Bayle, Sam Draper and Nilda Dos Santos Carvalho with a letter from Schools Minister Nick Gibb
Sheffield Park Academy students Zahra Aktar, Jak Bennett, Dekra Kolaib, Sakia Bayle, Sam Draper and Nilda Dos Santos Carvalho with a letter from Schools Minister Nick Gibb
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AN ACADEMY which was labelled inadequate by inspectors in 2009 emerged yesterday as the top performer in Yorkshire, under the government’s new measurement scheme.

Sheffield Park Academy was placed in special measures after being criticised following an Ofsted inspection, which said it was “failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education” and displayed “significant weaknesses in strategic leadership”.

But yesterday it became the ninth best performing school in the country and the best in Yorkshire, with a Progress-8 score classified as “well above the national average”.

The academy replaced Sheffield’s Waltheof school, near the city’s Manor estate, which closed in September 2006, and was a flagship of the Labour government’s policy of opening state-funded academies that would help to break cycles of underachievement in deprived areas.

In 2011, only 36 per cent of its pupils achieved five GCSEs at grade C or above, including English and maths. But by last summer, the figure had risen to 69 per cent, with more than half also gaining qualifications in sciences, a language and either history or geography.

A spokesman for United Learning, which sponsors the academy and three others in Yorkshire, put the improvement down to “a continued, sustained approach to the quality of teaching”.

He said the school’s £30m building, completed in 2008 and boasting its own theatre and recording studio, had helped increase pupils’ appetite for learning.

In its last report in 2013, Ofsted rated the school as “good” and acknowledged it had “improved significantly”.

Claire Bailey, associate principal at the school, praised staff and pupils for their achievement, and said the figures demonstrated the “significant progress” that pupils made, especially in English and maths.

“We are very proud of the confident, ambitious young people that we have here and look forward to them continuing their success in our sixth form,” she added.

Headteacher Craig Dillon said he was “delighted” that the school’s rating placed it in the top three per cent of state-funded secondaries nationally.