A SECONDARY school, where younger pupils sometimes "feel intimidated" by older students, has been rated as Requires Improvement after its first Ofsted inspection since joining an academy group.

Co-op Academy Priesthorpe, in Pudsey, was visited by the education watchdog on Monday, March 3 and Tuesday, March 4.

The inspection report was published on Wednesday, July 15, and it concluded that the school Requires Improvement in all but one of the five categories.

It received a Good rating for "Personal Development".

This was the school's first inspection since joining the Co-op Academies Trust in July 2017.

There was a mixed reaction from pupils in terms of behaviour and safety within the school, according to the report.

It states: "Some pupils say behaviour is improving.

"However, other pupils told inspectors that disruption still occurs, and this has an impact on how well they can learn.

"Pupils are keen that disruption to lessons stops completely.

"Younger pupils, at times, feel intimidated by older pupils.

"Fixed-term exclusions are below the national average.

"However, a number of exclusions are for violent behaviour.

"The area that the school uses to remove pupils from lessons is not appropriate.

"The trust confirmed during the inspection that this would be rectified."

Maths is a particular strong point for Co-op Academy Priesthorpe and students are encouraged to study the English Baccalaureate (English, maths, science, history or geography and a language), with a third of the school's now working towards it.

Curriculums for maths and science, are well planned, with pupils achieving well in the former.

But the quality of education across the whole curriculum is variable.

The report states: "In subjects, such as geography and history, pupils do not learn topics in enough depth.

"There are gaps in pupils’ learning.

"In these subjects, some pupils do not remember what they have been taught.

"There are limited opportunities for pupils to revisit and review their learning."

The school's 1141 pupils (of which 147 are in its sixth form) receive "effective careers education" throughout their time there.

There is a range of opportunities for students to take part in activities outside of the normal school curriculum and Co-op Academy Priesthorpe uses extra funding to make sure disadvantaged pupils can access trips and music tuition.

Despite this, their participation in the school's programme of extra-curricular activities is not as high as it could be, according to the report.

It adds: "Disadvantaged pupils are more likely to be absent from school compared to their peers.

"These pupils do not achieve as well as they should.

"Leaders need to ensure that disadvantaged pupils’ attendance improves further."

Co-op Academy Priesthorpe was approached for an official statement but did not respond.

The school has contested the outcome of the Ofsted inspection in an open letter to parents on its website though, claiming the inspectors judged it to be Good initially, but that around five weeks later that rating was reduced after "enhanced quality assurance".

Principal Martin Blacoe, said the school was left “bitterly disappointed” with the news, which he received after chasing up the education watchdog to see when it would be officially confirmed that the school had achieved Good ratings across the board.

The letter states: "The Inspectors recognised the journey we are on, our achievements to date, and the values and behaviours which have underpinned these improvements.

"An inspection report is normally released within two to three weeks of the date of an inspection.

"Having heard nothing for five weeks, I contacted Ofsted for an update.

"In response, I received a letter on May 1 which said that, following 'enhanced quality assurance', gradings provided at the end of our inspection had been changed."

Co-op Academy Priesthorpe and the Co-op Academies Trust produced a detailed complaint in response, but that was upheld on June 26.

This outcome was further challenged on July 3.

The letter states: "Despite strong representations, the outcome of this meeting was that our report would remain unchanged.

"We firmly believe this is an unjust outcome.

"However, we must not, and will not, let this deviate us from what is a sustained journey of upward school improvement.

"We have fought long and hard, on a platform of strong principles, values and beliefs to reach this point and must continue to do so.

"We absolutely believe we are a ‘Good’ school.

"A team of four highly experienced inspectors, including a Lead Inspector who had led on over 70 inspections and never had a judgment overturned, gathered extensive evidence over two days and arrived at the same collective conclusion.

"The Co-op Academies Trust stands shoulder to shoulder with us as an Academy, in the resolute belief that Ofsted have misjudged Priesthorpe.

"The Trust has an unswerving belief that the quality of provision for our students is ‘Good’."

The letter also includes words from the Co-op Academies Trust's CEO, Chris Tomlinson.

He said: “It goes without saying that we have an absolute belief that Priesthorpe is a Good school and, like the Principal, Senior Leaders and governors, we are hugely disappointed with the final inspection outcome and how it has materialised.

"It is vital that we do not let this impact the hard work that goes on every day in the Academy and that, with staff, governors, students and parents, we will work tirelessly to prove that this is a Good school which will carry on improving.”

The letter concludes: "The news I am sharing with you will take time to digest and I know you will share our bitter disappointment.

"In situations such as this, the pain and sense of injustice are felt as a community as well as individually."