A PRIMARY school once considered to be a shining example of the academy system and now in special measures is still struggling to improve standards.

Ofsted inspectors have visited Ryecroft Primary Academy in Holme Wood, Bradford, for the first time since they judged it inadequate in February.

Among the issues they identified on their visit was that the school was “isolated” from the academy trust that runs it, Newcastle-based Northern Academy Trust, and that bosses did not have enough local knowledge of the area.

Ryecroft was the first primary school in Bradford to become an academy, and was judged outstanding shortly after the conversion. But earlier this year Ofsted said there had been “significant decline in the school’s effectiveness.”

Inspectors returned for a monitoring inspection in July, and have this week written to the school saying they feel managers are “not taking effective action towards the removal of special measures.”

They found that since the last inspection, the former principal, associate principal and vice-principal have left, along with four teachers and 14 other members of staff. A new principal took over earlier this month.

The letter says: “The school is geographically isolated from the trust centre and from other more effective schools in the trust. This is a substantial barrier to improvement.

"The trust has been unsuccessful in finding sufficient expertise in the locality or identifying partner schools and individuals that could help the school to move forward.

“The trust has failed to ensure that there has been enough leadership capacity to sustain improvement.”

The letter says that although behaviour has slightly improved, “a number of pupils expressed dissatisfaction with behaviour in lessons during the inspection, saying that learning is regularly interrupted”.

A spokesman for the Northern Education Trust said: “The Trust has supported the Executive Principal and the academy through a period of extreme instability and a robust action plan has been established to address the issues cited in the Ofsted report. We start the academic year with the appointment of a new Principal, Helen Pearson, who has extensive experience of securing rapid improvements.

“A package of expert external and school-to-school support has been initiated to make certain that all pupils receive the very best teaching and learning experience.”

Ian Murch, Bradford spokesman for the National Education Union, said: “There is a lot of truth in what Ofsted says about the difficulty in supporting a school when the trust doesn’t have the infrastructure in the area to support it.

“I don’t think Ryecroft is the only academy in Bradford with that problem.”