Big turnaround as Ofsted rates Cockburn John Charles Academy ‘Good’

Cockburn John Charles Academy’s ‘transformation to excellence’ journey continues at great pace: rated good overall and outstanding in two areas by Ofsted

The children of Cockburn John Charles Academy (formally The South Leeds Academy) had not, historically, received the education they deserve, and the community rightfully felt let down. Rated as inadequate by Ofsted before joining Cockburn Multi-academy Trust, they have now demonstrated that they have transformed the academy into the exceptional school that its community deserves.

Cockburn John Charles Academy in Belle Isle, Leeds was inspected by Ofsted in April 2022. During the inspection, inspectors judged the quality of education along with behaviour and attitudes as good. Both personal development, and leadership and management were judged to be outstanding, leading to an overall effectiveness judgement of good.

Ofsted grades now reflect the areas that matter most to parents/carers: quality of education, behaviour and attitudes, personal development and leadership and management. From September 2019, Ofsted refocused its inspections of schools under their new framework, to make sure that learners are receiving a high-quality education that puts them on a path to future success. The new framework is designed to focus on the whole quality of a pupil’s education with a greater recognition of education providers’ work to support the personal development of pupils and a greater emphasis on behaviour. The Ofsted handbook states that: “Our aim is that schools should only be judged outstanding in a particular area if they are performing exceptionally, and this exceptional performance in that area is consistent and secure across the whole school.” This is now the case for Leadership and Management and Personal Development at Cockburn John Charles Academy.

During their visit, inspectors met with leaders, staff, trustees and governors. They talked to pupils about their work and visited lessons, observed extra-curricular activities and form time sessions. They also spoke to curriculum leaders and teachers and looked in depth at areas of the curriculum, including English, Mathematics, Science, ICT, Dance and PE.

The report begins by recognising the incredible achievement that has been made over the last five years at Cockburn John Charles Academy:

“The school has improved hugely since leaders took over. Leaders have raised standards, leaders and staff ensure all pupils are valued. The school continues to improve. Leaders and staff encourage pupils to have pride in their local community.”

Throughout the inspection, inspectors noted that the quality of education provided by the academy has much to be proud of.

“The curriculum offer overall is strong. Support for learners with EAL and SEND is strong. Leaders have developed an exemplary personal, social and health education (PSHE) curriculum. It is meticulously planned and sequenced so that all pupils have the knowledge they need to stay safe, including online. Staff are extremely knowledgeable about pupils’ individual needs. They provide highly personalised support. Staff are ambitious for pupils to do well.”

The inspection team were impressed with the school’s curriculum and the quality of the teaching:

“In each subject, the curriculum is designed to help pupils learn and remember. Assessment is well planned. Staff use a range of strategies to identify pupils’ misconceptions quickly. Staff provide pupils with opportunities to improve their work, which helps them to learn.”

The inspectors noted the “highly effective support” that pupils are given to develop their reading:

“Leaders insist that all pupils read regularly. Pupils read challenging texts within subjects. As a result of leaders’ actions, pupils develop confidence and fluency when reading. This increases pupils’ enjoyment of reading.”

The report also highlights how the academy provides outstanding opportunities for personal development:

“Staff help pupils to explore career opportunities locally and further afield. Leaders provide pupils with an exciting range of extra-curricular experiences, including over fifty extra-curricular clubs. Leaders’ approach to developing pupils’ character is excellent. Leaders take every opportunity to reinforce their values and high expectations. Leaders create further opportunities for pupils to develop responsibility. For example, members of the school council take pride in representing their peers. Leaders have listened to the council and implemented changes. For example, they have updated the school PE kit.”

The inspectors highlighted the huge impact that leaders at all levels across the school have made:

“Leaders are tenacious in taking every opportunity to support staff to become even more effective in their role.”

Throughout the inspection, inspectors saw the excellent behaviour and attitude of pupils that reflected the normal day to day life of the school:

“Staff have high expectations of pupils’ behaviour. Pupils behave well in lessons. Staff manage pupils’ behaviour effectively.”

Executive Headteacher, David Gurney, said:

“Our vision of ‘Transformation to Excellence’ focuses on a relentless drive to continue to improve and excel in all areas. This report recognises this drive that leads to excellent academic outcomes, while developing the pupil’s character as part of a supportive and caring community. I would like to thank all pupils, staff, parents/carers, trustees and governors for their ongoing hard work, support and dedication. Five years ago, we made a commitment to the community in south Leeds and despite the new rigorous inspection framework where judgements are harder to achieve, combined with the ongoing demands of the pandemic, this report recognises an excellent achievement. Our inspiring team of staff and pupils at the academy work tirelessly together to provide an excellent education.”

Head of School, Siobhan Roberts, added:

“The Cockburn John Charles Academy community is extremely proud of the feedback provided by Ofsted. This result reflects a significant, whole team effort to improve the education of each and every one of our pupils. All of our staff, families and young people have played a central role in ensuring that the academy continues to provide an excellent education that prepares students for an ambitious future of learning and career, regardless of difference and challenge.”

Chair of the Board of Trustees, Peter Nuttall, said:

“This inspection demonstrates that with the right mindset, and a willingness to take on a school rated ‘Inadequate’ by Ofsted in 2012, 2013 and 2016 with the intention of turning it around, remarkable results can be achieved. The staff at Cockburn John Charles Academy are to be congratulated on their excellent work. The academy now joins another Cockburn MAT school, Cockburn School, in providing the young people of south Leeds with the opportunity of a first-rate education.”


This post is based on a press release issued by Cockburn John Charles Academy


One Reply to “Big turnaround as Ofsted rates Cockburn John Charles Academy ‘Good’”

  1. Fantastic news. Well deserved for the children of South Leeds. The school is now a school of choice for the local families. I always knew when the leadership of Cockburn got involved especially with Mrs Roberts as Head of school, the school would go from strength to strength.

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