SIX schools in Melksham have been strongly criticised by the education regular Ofsted for failing education standards and poor management.

Two of the eight schools in Melksham have been put into special measures by the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills while another four have been graded as requiring ‘improvement’.

Seven of the eight schools in the Academy Trust of Melksham (ATOM) were inspected by Ofsted in April. One was graded ‘good’ (Seend), four were graded ‘requires improvement’ (Bowerhill, Melksham Oak, St Mary’s in Broughton Gifford, and Shaw) and two were graded ‘inadequate’ and will go into special measures (St George’s in Semington and The Manor). The eighth school in the Trust, Forest and Sandridge, was not inspected.

Stephen Clark, the head of Melksham Oak, blamed 10 students in Year 11 who failed to attend school for the drop in their educational standards. He has already called a meeting at 6pm on Wednesday, June 21 to discuss the Ofsted report and answer any questions from concerned parents.

He said: “Although it is always tough to receive a ‘requires improvement’ report, along with my colleagues, the governors and trustees I will use this as an opportunity to drive up standards and deliver the best possible outcome for our pupils.

“We do feel that the language in the report is harsh at times. From 2012 to 2015 the progress of our students was in the top 25% of schools in the country. In 2016 our headline figures have been affected by a small group of students that did not attend school.

“For last year our progress was at national average and we were 5% less for %A*-Cs in both English and Maths. This was 10 students. We had 10 students who did not attend Melksham Oak during Year 11. We believe that there was far too great a focus on the hugely negative impact of this small number of pupils, rather than highlighting the efforts and attainment of the vast majority of our young people.”

Wiltshire County Councillor Pat Aves (Lib Dem, Melksham North), who was herself a teacher, said: “I am really surprised to hear this. I have never heard any complaints from local parents. I am really surprised to hear that these schools are in this state and just find it hard to believe.”

County Councillor Phil Alford (Con, Melksham without North), who is also a teacher, added: “This is obviously really disappointing but it is important to recognise that the Leadership teams across the ATOM group are taking a very positive approach in how they respond to these judgments. They are analysing these reports and working with Ofsted to ensure that they improve and meet the highest standards.

“It is also important for us to understand how headline figures do not accurately reflect the commitment or quality of what is happening routinely in the classroom. The focus of Ofsted is to look more at the data and make a judgement largely based on this; whether these judgments reflect a reduced level of progress for all students or the dramatic impact of a few individuals is something that each school will be looking at. Linking these judgments will not be helpful until the proper analysis has been done.

“An Ofsted report is by its nature a critical document and it fails to tell the story of what our schools have achieved, the journey they have been on and the fantastic young people that attend them. From personal experience I understand just how difficult it will be right now for many of the teachers in our schools. We are lucky in Melksham to have such a strong team of dedicated professionals who are routinely going above and beyond and we need to support them now as they work to make our schools better.”

Responding to the Ofsted report, Paul White, Chair of Trustees of ATOM, said: “While these reports gave us praise for some really strong points, overall there are some very tough messages for many of our member schools and therefore for ATOM as an academy trust. These tough messages are a chance for improvement. We will use them to learn how we can give the best possible education to all the children within our communities.

“While we are obviously dissatisfied with the overall outcome, we will also remain aware of our strengths. Seend received an excellent report. Some of the other schools which were deemed as requiring improvement overall, still had more positives than negatives. Across our academies, pupils are safe, feel safe, behave respectfully to one another and adults, and take pride in their schools. Vulnerable and special needs pupils are well cared for and helped to achieve their best.

“Let me be clear, also, that we accept the result of the inspection. It was a challenging one, but a fair one. We will make things better and are determined that all our schools will be rated ‘good’ by our next OFSTED because our priority is the best possible outcomes for the children we educate. Many of the issues identified by OFSTED were ones we had already identified ourselves, and were taking action to address. This is acknowledged in many places in the reports.”

Nathan Hall, Chair of Members of the Academy Trust of Melksham, added: “We are giving our schools a stronger structure and stronger support at the top level. The two schools to go into special measures will now have access to specialist outside help on school improvement.

“The reports recognised the need to provide greater leadership capacity to drive real improvement across our schools, so we are in the process of recruiting an Interim Chief Executive Officer. This post has been advertised in the Times Educational Supplement. We aim to appoint someone who will start in September, with a permanent CEO in place by January 2018.

“We are reviewing our relationship with governing bodies to ensure we can act more swiftly and decisively when we see problems developing. Our plan for a changed and improved relationship will be in place by 1 September for the new academic year.

“Governance has already been strengthened in the two schools going into special measures, with interim boards in place for each. Individual improvement plans for each school are already in place. We have identified, in each of our schools, the key issues to further improve teaching and to challenging our pupils to progress more quickly. Trustees and Local Governing Bodies will monitor these Action Plans closely and ensure they are put into action.

“We know that we can count on the support of our wonderful parents and staff as we accept this challenge to drive improvement in all our schools.”

A Wiltshire Council spokesperson said: “We want all of our children to experience the best possible education and we are encouraged to see the proactive and committed approach the Academy Trust of Melksham is taking to respond to the recommendations from OFSTED and making the necessary changes to achieve this.”