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The JMA is improving but some teachers aren’t skilled enough, says Ofsted

The office for standards in education in England, Ofsted, inspected the John Madejski Academy (JMA) in January 2020 and reported that the school ‘requires improvement‘. Ofsted noted that the school is already improving, adding that there were problems with some teachers’ lack of expertise as well as pupil attendance. The JMA principal Camilla Thornalley agreed that the school is improving, saying that they had been aware of the problems Ofsted raised and had plans to address them.

Ofsted praises the JMA

Ofsted said that school principal Camilla Thornalley is “determined and ambitious for the school” and she has support of the school governors and staff. The inspector said that the school is improving “because teachers’ expectations of pupils in all year groups are rising” and that the school feels friendly, with staff and pupils getting on well together.

Ofsted added that pupils value the enrichment programme, where they can try new things like learning Chinese of making street art. The inspector said that staff are keen to encourage pupils to read more:

New strategies are in place such as older pupils (‘heroes’) working with younger ones to develop their reading skills. Although it is early days, pupils are developing better reading habits.

School leaders have managed to raise pupil attendance at the school. Ofsted adds “there is more to do to make sure boys, disadvantaged pupils and those who have SEND [special educational needs or disabilities] come to school more regularly.”

Ofsted reports that sixth form students achieve well, and standards are rising:

All students receive valuable advice and guidance about their next steps. They are successful in gaining places at universities or being offered apprenticeships or employment.

Ofsted criticises the JMA

The inspector said that school leaders want pupils to achieve as well as they can, but some teachers are more skilled and ambitious than others:

Not all teachers have the subject-specific knowledge they need to help pupils understand the world around them.

Sometimes this leads to pupils losing focus and switching off in lessons. As a result, some pupils are not achieving as well as they could, particularly those who have SEND.

Ofsted said that there wasn’t enough time in the timetable for music and design technology, and teachers in these subjects lacked “the subject-specific expertise to develop pupils’ knowledge and understanding.”

The inspector said that lessons are mostly calm and orderly, and that pupils said behaviour was better, but classes were still occasionally disrupted. They added that “students do not have sufficient opportunities to experience the world of work”.

Some of these criticisms, especially about “pockets of weak teaching” and absenteeism, were also in Ofsted’s previous report of September 2017.

The JMA responds

The JMA principal Camilla Thornalley responded to the Ofsted report on 15 February:

Whilst we are pleased Ofsted have acknowledged that the school is improving, we recognise that… we need to continue to address the challenges we face as a school.

The report identified a number of areas in which we can improve, including attendance, the progress of SEND students, and the breadth of our curriculum. Inspectors also highlighted the challenges arising from many of our middle leaders being new to the school.

We were aware of these challenges, and we have already instituted measures to address them. These plans are set out in our school development plan, with a weekly review of actions against targets.

These include:

  • proactive measures to help pupils in key affected areas attend school and to reward students with good attendance,
  • coaching for teachers and leaders with fortnightly targets set,
  • regular training with clear monitoring and evaluation of impact,
  • the appointment of new specialists to help support SEND pupils,
  • continued work with primary schools to help ease the student transition into secondary school,
  • operating a number of initiatives that empower our middle leaders to hold their departments to account and instil increased standards,
  • bespoke teacher training and coaching, and ongoing evaluation of training methods,
  • the adjustment of our curriculum from September 2021 to allow more time for technology and the arts.

By continuing the initiatives already in place, and with the continued collaboration of the whole school community, I am confident that the John Madejski Academy is on the path to becoming the excellent school our students deserve.

Ms Thornalley thanked the local community, business, organisations and parents for their support and invited parents to join the JMA Parent Forum. The JMA also has a partnership with Lets Localise where the community can offer the school further support.

A history of recent Ofsted inspections at the JMA

DateOfsted rating
October 2008Good
January 2012Inadequate
December 2013Requires improvement
November 2015Inadequate
September 2017Requires improvement
January 2020Requires improvement

The school was put into special measures after Ofsted’s ‘inadequate’ ratings in 2012 and 2015. The school joined the White Horse Federation, a multi-academy trust, in January 2018. Camilla Thornalley was appointed interim (now permanent) principal in 2019.

  1. John Madejski Academy and response to Ofsted
  2. JMA’s Ofsted entry and DfE performance tables
  3. JMA Parent Forum
  4. Let’s Localise
  5. The White Horse Federation
  6. Ofsted
  7. The John Madejski Academy gets a new principal
  8. The JMA on the Whitley Pump


  1. Hmm, wonder what this teacher ‘lack of expertise’ is…assume they are teacher trained?!

    • Adam Harrington

      17 February 2020 at 6.28 pm

      In their response, the JMA also say (summarised):

      Both presently and historically, it has been difficult for our school to recruit teachers in specialist subjects such as music, IT, and design technology.

      In the UK, the recruitment market for teachers is highly competitive, and in an area such as Reading, we face competition from a large number of other schools, including private and selective schools.

      … many of our staff, especially middle leaders, are new to the school. While they have already begun to instigate improvements, the full impact of their expertise will be seen in the months and years to come.

      The JMA’s response includes a list of the actions they intend to take.

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