Less than three years after being placed in Special Measures in every category by Ofsted, Merchants’ Academy in Bristol has received official confirmation that the significant improvements made have been effective. Following a visit by Ofsted on 26-27 February 2020, the inspector acknowledged that the “quality of education pupils receive is improving” and, as the upward trajectory continues, the academy still Requires Improvement. He was particularly impressed with the academy’s effectiveness under the category ‘personal development’, which he rated as Good.
Specifically, he reported that “pupils are safe and well cared for, show respect for one another and appreciate different faiths and cultures”. The report cited the broad selection of co-curricular activities and experiences, alongside a wide range of courses, good-quality careers guidance and well-respected work placements, as helping students to “aim higher in possible future careers”.
He also praised the school’s leaders who “have overhauled the curriculum” and “made a real effort to improve the range of subjects that pupils study”. He observed that “leaders and school staff are wholly committed to improving life chances for pupils”.
Teachers were described as having a “determined drive to improve” alongside “increasingly high expectations of pupils”. This has resulted in a year-on-year improvement in attendance and punctuality, with the inspector reporting that “leaders have worked hard to improve pupils’ behaviour and reduce exclusions, which are now in line with the national average”.
The inspector also acknowledged the contribution of the academy’s sponsors, in particular through the provision of vocational workshops and he expressed confidence in leaders, trustees and governors, who he said are “clear about the school’s strengths and weaknesses and are continuing to improve all aspects of the school’s work”.
Principal, Sam Williamson said: “The report accurately acknowledges that we are only part way through a transformative journey to make Merchants’ Academy an excellent school for the young people of South Bristol. As a school community, we have worked hard to establish strong foundations across teaching and learning that are driving forward strategic improvements across the academy. Our pupils have higher aspirations than ever before, supported by dedicated teachers and a productive partnership between home and school. Because of this cohesive approach, our students are following exciting and rewarding career pathways that will positively impact on their futures.”
Chair of Governors, Colin Skellett said: “We are delighted that after two years of intense effort, Merchants’ Academy is no longer placed in special measures. Our excellent leadership team and teaching staff have transformed the curriculum providing a much wider range of opportunity; teaching and learning has improved and this is being reflected in the results being achieved by our students. We are also seeing a growing number of students wanting to join Merchants’ Academy in Primary, Secondary and our Sixth Form. We know we need to do more but I am confident that we have the team in place to ensure that we deliver the best for all our students.”