Fortis Academy


Name Fortis Academy
Website http://greatbarracademy.org.uk/
Ofsted Inspection Rating Requires improvement
Inspection Date 26 November 2019
Address Aldridge Road, Great Barr, Birmingham, West Midlands, B44 8NU
Phone Number 01213666611
Type Academy
Age Range 11-18
Religious Character None
Gender Mixed
Number of Pupils 1740 (52% boys 48% girls)
Number of Pupils per Teacher 16.1
Academy Sponsor The Shaw Education Trust
Local Authority Birmingham
Percentage Free School Meals 33.6%
Percentage English is Not First Language 34%
Persisitent Absence 25.4%
Pupils with SEN Support 9.3%
Catchment Area Information Available Yes, our catchment area data is FREE
Last Distance Offered Information Available No

What is it like to attend this school?

Pupils have not made the progress they should at Great Barr Academy. Until recently, leaders struggled to improve the quality of education and pupils’ attitudes. In September, the trust that runs the school put new leaders in charge, and this has already made a big difference. Most learning is well organised, although pupils say that they occasionally find work hard to follow. Senior leaders have set clear expectations. Pupils study a good range of subjects, but learning is more consistent in some subjects than in others.

All pupils are made welcome in this school. Most, but not all, take a pride in their uniform and in their schoolwork. Some are motivated by the link between their work and their future careers. In other cases, the curriculum is not tailored to their needs so they lose concentration in class. Attendance remains too low.

Most of the time, pupils behave well. There are a few incidents of poor behaviour at social times, when a small number of pupils mess about and create a disturbance. When bullying occurs, staff generally sort it out effectively. Pupils feel safe.

There is a very good atmosphere in the sixth form.

What does the school do well and what does it need to do better?

The school offers a good range of subjects, but the quality varies from one subject to another. Leaders know this and have worked to improve curriculum planning, so that new learning builds on what pupils can already do. However, this is being achieved in some subjects, such as English, more consistently than in others. In science and mathematics, teachers sometimes find it hard to introduce new ideas and fill the gaps in what pupils should already know. This holds pupils back in these subjects.

In modern foreign languages, the take-up at key stage 4 has been low. In order to improve this, leaders are strengthening the curriculum offer. They aim to make it more appealing to pupils and increase the take-up.

Sometimes, the help for pupils to learn from their mistakes is not as effective as it might be. However, all teachers know their subjects well and are beginning to make useful links between different areas of the curriculum.

Pupils’ attitudes towards school require improvement. Most remember to be polite and act responsibly, but a small number do not. After social times, pupils often drift back to classrooms in a leisurely way. Some pupils do not present their work neatly. However, pupils say that behaviour is improving and that poor conduct rarely disturbs their learning.

Leaders use exclusions in the right way, but the rate of exclusion remains above thenational average. The frequent transfer of pupils into and out of the school affects pupils’ attendance but, even so, absence remains too high.

This is a school that is fair to all. Pupils respect everyone from the local community’s many different cultures and traditions. Leaders have put together a well-organised programme that develops pupils’ social and cultural understanding. It is not yet taught consistently, so that many pupils’ knowledge of some topics is hazy. The school provides pupils with a range of extra-curricular activities, but many do not make the most of the opportunities provided.

The school is part of a multi-academy trust (MAT). The trust appointed new leaders in September, and this has already brought major benefits. The trust has a precise understanding of the school’s strengths and weaknesses. Its leaders know that there is considerable work still to do. Staff say that they feel energised and encouraged by recent changes, and that leaders have taken their ideas into account. Leaders have set up clear procedures to check on the effectiveness of the curriculum and teaching. Leaders are improving rapidly the quality of education for all. As part of this, they are improving what the school does for pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities, and those with English as an additional language.

Leaders have re-ordered the school day, and this has improved behaviour. Staff are working more effectively with parents and carers, although some remain reluctant to work with the school.

The sixth form is very well organised. Students can choose from a wide range of academic and vocational courses. The curriculum and teaching are strong, and teachers encourage students to research and learn for themselves. Leaders check well on students’ progress and support them if they are falling behind. Students benefit from an impressive programme of additional activities, including work experience. Careers guidance is good. Students complete their courses and a high proportion go on to university.

Safeguarding

The arrangements for safeguarding are effective.

The school has a strong culture of safeguarding. Leaders are very knowledgeable about the varied risks that pupils face. They have strong links with other organisations that protect children, and use them well. Staff are persistent when pupils do not receive the support they need. Leaders have ensured that staff are well trained to spot any pupils who may be at risk of harm. They make the appropriate checks when staff are appointed. The school keeps detailed records securely.

What does the school need to do to improve?

(Information for the school and appropriate authority)

Subject leaders have not finished planning the curriculum. The task is complex, because of the significant gaps that many pupils have in their learning, and because of the relatively large numbers of pupils who join the school during a key stage. Subject leaders should ensure that work builds consistently on what pupils already know and understand. They should also embed the means of identifying reliably what pupils have learned, and help pupils to consolidate where they cannot remember or apply their learning. . Some teaching is not implementing the curriculum as well as it should. In some instances, day-to-day planning does not reflect leaders’ intentions. Sometimes, teachers’ explanations are not entirely clear, and activities do not develop pupils’ understanding as fully as they might. Basic standards in the presentation of pupils’ work are not secure. Leaders need to identify where teaching is less effective, and provide the required training and support. . In this large school, subject leadership is a demanding role. Senior leaders should ensure that all directors of learning have a secure understanding of how to design the curriculum, and how to check on its implementation. Where additional staff have subject responsibilities, leaders should allocate these with a view to addressing quickly and effectively those areas that require attention. . There is room for pupils to take a greater interest in their learning, and a greater responsibility for their own progress. Staff should help them to see how their everyday work fits into the bigger picture. They should foster those habits and routines that will best support pupils in building up a coherent body of knowledge and skills. . Most of the pupils who spoke to us mentioned the rowdy behaviour at social times of a small number of pupils. The frequency of such incidents is declining, but staff should ensure that it reduces to the point where it no longer affects pupils’ school experience. Staff should work with those whose behaviour is anti-social to make sure that they understand how their actions affect other people. . Since the school opened as an academy, attendance has been well below the national average. There are signs that leaders’ current strategies are working, but there is a long way to go. Leaders should persist in establishing the value of attending school with those families who are yet to be convinced.