'There was not a dry eye in the room when we received Ofsted's judgement' - inspectors praise Rugby Free Secondary School for its 'astonishing turnaround'

In the space of two years and with a pandemic to deal with, Ofsted said the school has seen a rapid improvement

Rugby Free Secondary School is one of a select group of secondary schools nationally to see its Ofsted rating upgraded from 'Inadequate' across all areas to 'Good' across all areas.

A school in Rugby has described its rapid improvement as an 'astonishing turnaround', following a good Ofsted inspection.

Rugby Free Secondary School is one of a select group of secondary schools nationally to see its Ofsted rating upgraded from 'Inadequate' across all areas to 'Good' across all areas.

The school said that the achievement is all the more remarkable as it has been accomplished in two years, most of which has been during the pandemic.

Rugby Free Secondary School is one of a select group of secondary schools nationally to see its Ofsted rating upgraded from 'Inadequate' across all areas to 'Good' across all areas.

Rugby Free Secondary School, which opened in 2016, had, in its own words, a troubled birth and in the first three years pupils had to use temporary accommodation. When students finally moved into the £25m purpose built new building on Anderson Avenue, they spent only days in their new school before all schools went into lockdown.

Headteacher Samirah Roberts was permanently appointed the day before the first lockdown - and following an Ofsted inspection this summer the school has been judged Good overall and across all four Ofsted categories.

The latest Ofsted report states: “Pupils embody the school values of kindness and respect in their daily interactions with staff and each other. Relationships between staff and pupils are strong...the school actively teaches pupils about the skills they need to succeed in modern Britain.”

The report says all pupils learn a broad and ambitious curriculum and that “Leaders, including those responsible for governance, want the ‘very best’ for pupils.” It adds: “Pupils feel confident ‘to be themselves’ at Rugby Free Secondary School” and that “Pupils’ behaviour around school is respectful and calm.”

The previous Ofsted inspection was carried out in May 2019, when the school's overall effectiveness was rated as 'Inadequate'. The overall effectiveness has now been upgraded to 'Good' and four sub-categories - quality of education, behaviour and attitude, personal development, and leadership and management are also rated 'Good'.

Commenting on the report, Headteacher Samirah Roberts said: “We were very much looking forward to having a full Ofsted inspection and although the end of term was quite challenging due to a rise in COVID cases, as shown time and time again throughout the pandemic, teachers are very resilient and were able to really demonstrate the progress we have made over the last two years in building a broad and creative curriculum that can be taught traditionally in the classroom or over a video link when children are at home.

“Inspectors spent many hours talking to students formally and informally and it was humbling to hear the positive reports of their experiences and learning reflected back by inspectors in the feedback at the end of the inspection.”

Chair of the school’s Sustainable Improvement Board, Tom Legge, said: “Miss Roberts got the call from Ofsted on her first day back having been struck down by COVID for two weeks, England had lost in the European final the night before and the week before we had 26 members of staff off with COVID or self-isolation.

"As chair of the Improvement Board, despite knowing how far the school had come, it didn’t appear to be great timing. However, there was not a dry eye in the room when we received the judgement from Ofsted.

"All credit to the head, her staff and most of all the students at the school who were a credit to themselves, their families and the town. As a trustee, I’m excited to be a part of the team that will take the school on to 'Outstanding' at its next inspection.”

Cllr Kam Kaur, Warwickshire County Councillor for Bilton and Hillside, said: “Ofsted’s report on Rugby Free Secondary School shows a tremendous amount of progress. Everyone involved with Rugby Free School can feel proud that they have contributed towards the positive findings of Ofsted’s report.

"I feel confident that, given the strong collaboration and co-operation that was highlighted between everyone involved with the school, the qualities the report highlights will be sustained and built upon. Congratulations to everyone on making such a difference”