Heanor Gate Spencer Academy achieves “Outstanding” rating from Ofsted

The secondary academy has undergone a complete transformation from “Inadequate” in 2013 to an “Outstanding” school where “pupils thrive”.

After its latest Ofsted inspection, Heanor Gate Spencer Academy was rated “Outstanding,” making it one of 26 schools in the East Midlands to hold the grade, and one of only 16 non-special schools.

The report opens, “Pupils are proud to be part of this extremely ambitious school. Leaders have the highest expectations of pupils and want the absolute best for them. Pupils thrive at this school and are eager to attend.” Inspectors emphasise the positive, supportive relationships between students and staff, quoting the “common view” of parents that “Nothing is too much trouble for the staff, ever”.

When the academy joined Spencer Academies Trust in 2014, Heanor Gate had a rating of “Inadequate” after an inspection in September 2013. Over the following ten years, they rose to “Requires Improvement” in 2014, “Good” in 2017 and again in 2022, and now, under the new and more rigorous Ofsted framework, have achieved “Outstanding” status.

Leaders at Heanor Gate Spencer Academy and Spencer Academies Trust are particularly proud of the teamwork and sense of community highlighted in the report. Inspectors write, “Leaders are relentless in their desire to provide the absolute best education for all pupils and to serve the local community.” They add that “Staff appreciate the support the trust offers such as the high-quality training opportunities tailored to their career stage. . . Staff are proud to work at this school and to be part of ‘Team Heanor’.”

Inspectors were also impressed with the opportunities for students to “[become] responsible and respectful citizens”. They elaborate, “Pupils’ work in the community is commendable. This includes support with food banks, a ‘sleep out’ to raise money for the homeless and visits to a local care home for the elderly. Pupils are prepared well to take their place in a modern society.”

Fewer than 30 other schools across Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire boast the highest possible Ofsted rating, and of those fewer than half are non-special schools. The community at and around Heanor Gate Spencer Academy has demonstrated a tireless drive for achievement and commitment to each other, and their passion for their school is reflected in the report.

Both the academic and extracurricular education are celebrated. Inspectors write, “Teachers are subject experts” and “use assessment exceptionally well to check pupils’ understanding”. Students with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) receive tailored support: “Teachers and the Learning Progress Assistants receive precise information on how to support pupils to access the same curriculum as their peers, which they do with success.” They add that these students “receive the support that they need from the accomplished pastoral team.”

Inspectors highlight the successes of the sixth form provision, which was also graded “Outstanding”. They write, “Pupils are ambitious about their future. A tailored programme of careers information, education, advice and guidance is highly bespoke to pupils’ needs.”

Principal Matt Jones said, “As the Principal of Heanor Gate Spencer Academy, I am incredibly proud of everyone involved in our unique ‘Team Heanor’ community. This judgement is more than an Ofsted grade; it is the pinnacle of a seven-year journey of school improvement which has seen the school move from ‘Requires Improvement’ to ‘Good’ and now ‘Outstanding’.  This recognition is for everyone: our amazing students, our supportive families, the wider community and our talented, caring and dedicated staff.

“The collective efforts of many people over a prolonged period of time have allowed us to reach this point. A culture of aspiration is now embedded and everyone shares the common goal of wanting the very best for all of our young people. Our staff body are not only highly skilled professionals; they also show a phenomenal level of care and personal investment they show towards our students.

“I am thrilled with the judgement, but in true Team Heanor style we will not allow an ounce of complacency. Instead, hopefully the judgement will open more doors for us as a school as we continue to evolve and develop to provide the very best learning and life experiences for the young people in our community.”

Director of Secondary Education Fraser Mitchell said, “We’re delighted that Heanor Gate Spencer Academy has finally achieved the recognition it deserves. This ‘Outstanding’ judgement comes hot on the heels of having secured World Class Status and a TES community award nomination, but true success is never achieved overnight. This report is a testimony not just to Mr Jones and his team, but to the relentless ambition and tireless work of leaders and staff past and present since joining The Spencer Academies Trust in 2014. The community deserves to be so proud of their school. I’m thrilled to congratulate everyone connected with Heanor Gate Spencer Academy.”

CEO Paul West said, “I am delighted that the hard work, dedication and commitment of the Heanor Gate Spencer Academy staff team and community have been officially recognised by Ofsted as an Outstanding school. It is a significant achievement for both Heanor Gate Spencer and Spencer Academies Trust. Matt and his team at the academy should be rightly proud of their achievement, and I know that the very supportive community of Heanor will continue to benefit from the exceptional education provided by Heanor Gate Spencer in the coming years.”