ST John’s Wood Academy faces a ‘monumental’ challenge in addressing a range of issues, says education watchdog Ofsted.

The special school in Longridge was judged to be inadequate in a damning report from inspectors, which said it required special measures.

The report followed an inspection in March, and found a failure by leaders to take action to reverse the school’s decline, verbal and physical threats by pupils towards each other and staff, and ‘woeful’ outcomes for Year 11 pupils.

The inspection was carried out following a complaint made to Ofsted, which raised serious concerns.

Interim headteacher Alexis Bull, who has been in post since November, said in a letter to parents: “There are many challenging judgements in the report and the outcome is very disappointing for governors, staff, and I am sure, will be for you as parents or carers.

“We are absolutely committed to addressing the issues raised in the report and raising standards for all of our pupils.”

The school reopened in 2016 as part of The Adelaide Academy Trust, and has 43 pupils aged between 11 and 16 on roll with social, emotional and mental health difficulties.

The Ofsted report said: “There has been a significant decline in all aspects of the school’s performance since the predecessor school was inspected in 2013. The scale of challenge facing the school is monumental.

“Leaders at all levels, including governors, have failed to take the urgent and decisive action required to reverse the decline in the school’s performance.

“Pupils are verbally and physically threatening towards staff and peers. They pay little heed to their teachers and other adults. Safeguarding is ineffective.

“On average pupils are absent from school for nearly half the school week. Leaders, including governors and trustees, do not have the capacity to turn the school around.”

The report said pupils found lessons dull, and the curriculum was not fit for purpose.

It added: “Across the school weak teaching, poor attitudes to learning and sporadic attendance hamper pupils’ progress. Outcomes at the end of Year 11 for all groups are woeful.”

The report said Ms Bull had an accurate view of the school’s current performance, and in the short time she had been in post some improvements had been made.

Ms Bull said in the letter: “Staff have been working hard over recent months, but our efforts need to be more focused on areas that will make the most difference.

“Leadership staff and governance take responsibility for any lack of rigour and acknowledge that the provision for your children must improve immediately.

“I appreciate many of you will be disappointed by many of the inspection team’s judgements and frustrated that standards are not as good as they should be.

“Please be assured that staff share your concerns and are determined to work extremely hard to make St John’s Wood Academy the outstanding school your children deserve.”

Ms Bull said she had ‘changed the curriculum offer’, and changes had included ‘new nurture groups, new option choices and seeking the most outstanding external providers that promise the best learning opportunities’.

The school has appointed a School Improvement Board to scrutinise the work it undertakes, and is running parents meetings next week.

Ms Bull added: “We know you will have concerns about the rate at which the school can address the many problems highlighted in the report.”

However she believed pupils would thrive with ‘our honest approach to school improvement, rigour in our School Improvement Board, expert support from The Adelaide Trust and the local authority and an absolute determination from staff and leadership at the school’.

Cllr Jos Saunders, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for children and families, said: “We are extremely concerned at the outcome of the Ofsted inspection of St John’s Wood Academy.

“While this council has no direct responsibility for management of the school, we are providing support and challenge to the school and the trust to ensure immediate improvements to address the serious issues raised in this report.

“The council had raised concerns prior to the inspection and had already taken steps to provide support, some of which are recognised in the report.

“Following the inspection, the council has acted swiftly to respond to the specific safeguarding concerns, placing officers in the school on a regular basis to provide further support and oversight.

“We wish to assure families that we have taken steps to improve arrangements and we will continue to work closely with the trust to progress a range of actions to bring about immediate improvements. “The school, alongside the local authority, will be meeting with parents in the coming days to discuss this in more detail.”