WEAK leadership of the past and poor exam results has led to a disappointing Ofsted report for a Bicester school.

Bicester Technology Studio, which has struggled to recruit students since opening in 2016, has now been rated 'requires improvement' after its first inspection from the watchdog.

The group in charge of the academy is confident of a turnaround, however, after it overhauled leadership and governance earlier this year.

The Ofsted report of the 122-pupil studio school said: "Past weaknesses in senior leadership and governance meant that standards achieved during the first two years [since opening] were poor.

"In the first two years of operation, the school struggled to recruit and retain sufficient students onto their courses.

"During this time, there had been a period of some staffing changes in English and other subjects, and numbers of pupils and students at the school had dropped."

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The school, which has a capacity of 310, teaches teenagers aged 14 to 19.

Ofsted said GCSE results in 2018 showed pupils had 'significantly underperformed' in English, maths and science.

Despite being rated 'requires improvement' in all five areas of assessment – Ofsted's second-lowest standard – inspectors were positive about 'decisive action' to restructure leadership in February.

The Activate Learning Education Trust appointed the headteacher and governors of The Bicester School to take over at the Technology Studio, to boost standards and refine the schools' focus.

Both schools are run by the trust, and neighbour each other.

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Ofsted's report, published on Monday, said: "The new executive headteacher and head of school have initiated significant advances.

"They have reinvigorated and broadened the curriculum, enhanced planning and initiated improvements to teaching, attendance and behaviour.

"They have a shared passion to improve standards, and have worked together to reinvigorate staff and improve the number of pupils applying to join the studio school in Year 10 next year."

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The report added that governors were 'committed and keen advocates' of the school's 'unique identity,' and the curriculum has been redesigned to focus more on enterprise and technical work-related courses.

Inspectors said attendance had been below the national average, but this is improving thanks to 'tireless' efforts of staff.

Tony Rushworth, executive principal of the school, said: "We want to provide a first rate technical education for the young people of Bicester, and provide them with an option that’s previously been unavailable within other local school settings.

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Bicester Technology Studio under construction in 2016. Picture: David Fleming

"We would have wanted a better Ofsted rating, but we are encouraged by the comments of the inspectors and feel that we are on a better path to achieving a stronger rating in the future."

Georgina Whyatt and David Dunne, co-chairs of the school's new governing committee, said in a joint statement: "The Ofsted judgement reflects and supports the belief that the Bicester Technology Studio School, under its new leadership and management, is moving both in the right direction and at a good speed towards becoming a much-improved educational provider."

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Lee Nicholls, chief executive of the Activate Learning Education Trust, added: "The Bicester Technology Studio offers a unique education opportunity to the young people of Bicester, and we are working hard to ensure the quality of this provision is of the highest possible standard.

"While we recognise there is still much to do, we feel we have a solid plan in place to take us forward."

In March the trust denied that the school was at risk of closure, after concerns about its future were raised at a council meeting.

Studio schools are sponsored by existing schools or colleges and have strong links with employers, and were introduced in 2010 as part of the government's free schools programme.