St Patrick’s Catholic College in Thornaby has been praised by inspectors for the “significant” progress made since the appointment of a new headteacher and strengthening of its leadership and teaching teams.

The school was judged to be inadequate and placed in special measures after a full inspection in May 2018.

But following a monitoring visit on December 17 and 18 last year, inspectors have now concluded: “Leaders and managers are taking effective action towards the removal of special measures.”

The report says that although previous efforts to improve the quality of education had mixed results, this picture is now being transformed.

New headteacher Michael Burns took up his post on October 21 2019 and Ofsted says he has made “significant strides in a short space of time.”

“The headteacher has a clear vision for improvement,” the report says. “He wants all pupils to succeed. In just eight weeks, he has made a number of important changes.

“He has brought in new systems to check pupils’ progress and the quality of education. Prompt action is now being taken to support pupils who fall behind. His team holds weekly meetings to check on the most vulnerable pupils. The senior team are working more effectively together.

“The headteacher is developing the quality of senior leadership. He has made sure his team are much more visible around the school site. As a result, staff and pupils feel more supported. Senior leaders will not accept bullying or poor behaviour.

“Much stronger systems are in pace to check pupils’ progress and the quality of education. When areas of underachievement are identified, swifter action is being taken to provide support.

“Leaders have made the school site safer. Movement on corridors is calmer and more effectively supervised. Split lunchtimes and breaks have led to better site management.

“There has been a drastic reduction in serious incidents causing injury. Leaders and teachers take purposeful action to help pupils leave the site as safely as possible.

“The headteacher has commissioned support from the local authority to further improve traffic safety outside the school.”

There is also praise for Nicholas Postgate Catholic Academy Trust (NPCAT), which runs St Patrick’s along with 25 other schools across Teesside and North Yorkshire.

“The trust is providing better training,” the report continues. “This is improving the quality of the curriculum.”

A new trust standards officer and trust subject directors for English and maths are described as important appointments which are improving the quality of planning, teaching and assessment.

The report says work to improve attendance is a major priority for 2020, along with further efforts to improve the quality of teaching.

“While there is still a long way to go, the momentum for change has increased,” it says. “Staff said they receive fewer objections from parents when they issue sanctions, such as detentions. This is because more parents appreciate the culture leaders are building.

“Leaders are building a positive atmosphere through increasing praise and rewards. Pupils are accessing more clubs and after-school activities. Pupils’ successes are shared through the school’s developing use of social media.

“The headteacher has increased the pace of improvement. There is increased urgency in actions to improve the curriculum and pupils’ outcomes.

“Pupils’ behaviour has continued to improve. The school site is safer and calmer. Pupils and staff value the heightened presence of leaders.”

Headteacher Michael Burns said: “We’re all delighted to have made such significant progress in such a short space of time and it’s reassuring to see the inspectors have acknowledged the transformation that’s taking place.

“I’m extremely proud of this report and of all the children and staff who have worked so hard to take this school forward. I’m also very appreciative of the support of our parents and the whole community.

“I’d especially like to highlight the comment the inspectors made about how we as a school will not tolerate poor behaviour and bullying. We will continue raising expectations in the months ahead as we build on the strides we have made so far.”

Trust chief executive officer Hugh Hegarty added: “The report sets out very clearly that NPCAT is effectively putting the necessary infrastructure in place to embed quality education in St Patrick’s Catholic College.

“Together with Ofsted’s recent positive findings at Trinity Catholic College in Middlesbrough, it is evidence of the impact our trust-wide infrastructure is having across all our secondary schools.

“Mr Burns is committed to the trust’s vision and his leadership and determination to drive St Patrick’s forward is inspirational.

“Students speak freely about the positive culture within the college, where teachers go the extra mile, where everyone is respected and where high expectations and standards are central to daily life.

“I must thank all the staff who have embraced the necessary changes and who work relentlessly to assist all students. I also want to thank every parent for working in partnership with the trust as we continue to progress.

“The governors provide crucial support and their desire to restore St Patrick’s to its previous status within the community remains a key target.

“We have a long way to go, but this external validation is a boost to everyone within the college and within the trust.”

The school was strengthened further this month when six new teachers started, including a school learning lead and a lead practitioner of English.