'Outstanding' school in Chadwell Heath downgraded to 'requires improvement'

Aerial view of Atam Academy

Atam Academy, Chadwell Heath - Credit: Google Maps

A school in Chadwell Heath has seen its Ofsted rating slump from 'outstanding' to 'requires improvement'.

Atam Academy, in Barley Lane, received the education regulator's highest grading in 2019 just three years after opening.

It currently has pupils in every year group from nursery up to year 9.

But after a two-day visit in May, Ofsted inspectors found improvements needed to be made at the school.

They said that academic expectations "lack ambition" and that the curriculum is "not consistently well planned" at both primary and secondary level.

Inspectors also found that "long gaps" between lessons in subjects such as design and technology and art "limit pupils’ ability to remember subject content".

They wrote: "Across different subjects, year groups and phases, pupils do not build up secure knowledge as they progress through the school.

"In some subjects in both primary and secondary phases, the curriculum does not cover important content. This leads to gaps in pupils’ knowledge."

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Inspectors said there have been "significant" changes in the school's governance.

David Martin took over as principal in January 2021 and Anita Notta became chef executive of Khalsa Academies Trust, which runs the school, earlier this year.

Many senior leaders are new in post for this academic year and there are six recently appointed trustees, the report said.

Inspectors wrote that school leaders "have started to put their plans into place" and "have begun to take action to address misconceptions or gaps in pupils’ knowledge".

They found many parents and carers are "positive" about recent improvements by the new leaders.

Inspectors also said that staff feel well supported but added: "A number of other parents expressed their dissatisfaction with the way leaders communicate with them and lack confidence in leaders, including those responsible for governance."

Mr Martin told the Recorder that an action plan had been implemented to address the issues in the report.

He said: “Whilst we are disappointed to have been downgraded from an outstanding judgement, we fully accept there are areas of provision which require improvement.

“Inspectors were pleased with the progress we have made and acknowledge we are still growing to be a full school with the addition of KS4 and KS5 students over the next few years.

“They have recognised the changes made are beginning to have an impact on both pupil experiences and achievement."

Other inspection findings included that pupils "enjoy their learning and are happy at school".

Inspectors said: "Pupils, including those who are new to the school, spoke of the warm and friendly atmosphere. They are safe.

"Pupils know that they can speak to the adults if they have any concerns or make use of the school’s ‘worry boxes’."

Inspectors also found children at the school, which has a Sikh ethos, have chances to explore topical and moral issues and are taught about other religions and perspectives.

Mr Martin added: “They rightly point out that we are a happy, friendly and warm school where children feel safe and supported by experienced and qualified staff.

“We move forward with the support of a new CEO of the trust who is an experienced, talented education specialist.”

The school also pointed to figures published by Ofsted in March which showed that only half of 255 'outstanding' schools kept that rating after inspections between September and December 2021.

Ms Notta said: “The report makes clear the school has moved forward considerably under the experienced leadership of our current principal.

“We accept there is still work to be done much of which is already underway thanks to the rapid implementation of our post Ofsted action plan.

“Atam Academy remains a hugely ambitious school reflective of the highly aspirational community we serve.

“We are determined to use this report as a catalyst for change and take the school forward, and return it to its former glories.

“I will be working very closely with the experienced principal Mr Martin and his leadership team to ensure improvement is swift and sustained.”