EDUCATION watchdog Ofsted says St John’s Wood Academy is taking effective action towards the school being taken out of special measures.

The special school in Longridge was placed in special measures following an inspection in March, which highlighted a series of areas where improvements were needed.

These included teaching, learning and assessment, leadership and management at all levels, pupils’ behaviour and attendance and their social, emotional and mental health needs.

Following a monitoring inspection this month inspector Will Smith said the school’s leaders and managers were taking effective action towards the removal of special measures.

The trust’s statement of action and the school’s improvement plan were fit for purpose, he said, although he strongly recommended the school did not seek to appoint newly-qualified teachers.

“Leaders have taken significant strides towards overcoming some of the monumental challenges identified at the last inspection,” said Mr Smith in his report.

“Most pupils have begun to make more progress in their learning, although this improvement is down to pupils’ improved attendance and behaviour rather than any significant improvement to teaching.

“Leaders have established many of the essential pre-conditions for future improvement.

“However they are no illusions about the scale of the challenge still facing the school, particularly in relation to the development of the curriculum and teaching, learning and assessment.”

Since the last inspection the interim headteacher was made permanent in her role, six teachers have left and not replaced and a number of teaching assistants have also left.

The number of pupils at the school has fallen significantly since the last inspection, and the local authority has arranged for a number to join other schools, including those who are looked after.

“Leaders have begun to create an ambitious culture of high expectations,” said the report.

“Despite this, the legacy of the school’s mismanagement still clouds the expectations of many staff.

“Staff have not yet developed high expectations of pupils’ learning and their own teaching because leaders have not provided them with the knowledge, understanding and skills to know what they could and should achieve.

“Teaching has improved in some areas, such as English and art. However, the development of teaching is at an early stage and improvements are fragile and inconsistent.”

Pupils often completed work they found too easy, said the report, and too much teaching failed to interest pupils, who became quickly bored and misbehaved when teaching was not matched to their needs.

“Following the previous inspection leaders took action to support pupils in year 11 to attain better grades in external examinations,” said the report.

“Despite this the attainment of these pupils was woefully low, and indicated pupils had made very little progress during their time at the school.

“The majority of examinations sat by pupils were failed. Pupils now in year 11 sat examinations for IGCSE English language in the summer.

“Their attainment was much higher than their counterparts from the previous year 11. This indicates that current rates of achievement for pupils in year 11 are considerably higher than that of their predecessors.”

The school converted to academy status in September 2016. It is sponsored by The Adelaide Academy Trust, which is backed by Adelaide School, a special school for pupils who have social, emotional and mental health difficulties.