School focus: Derbyshire secondary school improves ‘inadequate’ Ofsted rating to ‘good’ as new headteacher excited for even more improvements

A secondary school in Alfreton is doing better than ever after being transofmed into an academy and pupils are ‘proud’ and ‘happy’ to attend lessons.

David Nieper Academy is thriving with a lot of exciting changes, an impressive Ofsted report and big plans for the future.

The school, which was rated ‘inadequate’ in 2019 and had not been named ‘good’ by Ofsted in over twenty years, received the ‘good’ rating in all categories in its most recent inspection in 2022.

After the former headteacher, Dr Kathryn Hobbs, became the full-time CEO of the Trust in September 2023, the school welcomed a new head Richard White – former deputy headteacher at David Nieper.

Mr White said: “The academy has improved so much in the last five years that it is almost unrecognisable. We have gone from being less than half-full, to being one of the most over-subscribed schools in Derbyshire, as parents have recognised all of the improvements that we have made, and have increasingly placed their trust in us to provide the best quality care, guidance and education for their children.

“Visitors often remark how friendly the pupils and staff are, which I believe reflects the very inclusive nature of our Academy, which is built upon respect for the rights and views of others.

"Prior to 2019, the school was rated as inadequate, and you have to go back over 20 years to find a time when the school was rated as being ‘good’. This represents an entire generation of young people in and around Alfreton who were unable to attend a good school.

"Therefore, to become ‘good’ in all OFSTED categories, took a huge amount of hard work from a very dedicated and committed staff team, who crucially, had a clear plan for improvement and the determination to stick to it. I know that everybody involved in this, rightly felt an immense sense of pride, both for the school and for the local community who had backed us to succeed.”

The school belongs to Christopher Nieper Education Trust and is sponsored by the womens clothing manufacturer David Nieper Limited, which has been based in Alfreton for over 50 years.

Mr White said: “This relationship with a well-respected and longstanding local business is reflected in our commitment to supporting our community, and our vision to develop the leaders and achievers of the future, by bringing the workplace into the classroom and offering a curriculum that celebrates both the academic and the vocational.

“Other schools will occasionally use work-related examples in the classroom, but at David Nieper Academy, this is at the heart of our curriculum for all of our subjects.”

Ofsted inspectors have praised the school for ‘strong careers education’ - and careers fairs play a massive role in this success.

Held annually, the fairs include over 40 employers, apprenticeship providers and colleges. Pupils of all age can attend, and visitors are handing out ‘Golden tickets’ which enters pupils into a prize draw to win Amazon vouchers. These are handed out to any pupil that ask a great question, which of encourages children to find out more, whilst at the same time developing the communication skills that employers rate so highly.

The school also promotes career education with other events and projects including Denby Pottery Challenge, Maths mini-Olympics with Alfreton Leisure centre, Owen Taylor burger Challenge, Derbyshire Police Forensics activity project and Royal Engineers work on problem solving and Team work.

Mr White added: “The National Curriculum has become increasingly academic. Therefore, we believe that it is vital that where possible we link our curriculum to pupils’ daily lives and the world of work that lies ahead. At David Nieper Academy, we provide all pupils with genuine and meaningful experiences with employers that are a central to our curriculum, rather than being add-ons.”

Over recent years David Nieper has seen a massive shift in the aspirational nature of the college courses, University applications and career choices from pupils leaving the academy.

An externally validated audit has shown that we are meeting 100% of the Gatsby Benchmarks of Good Career Guidance, giving the Alfreton school the maximum score of 8, compared to to the national average of 4.8. Consequently, as part of the Trust, the school has been heavily involved in developing their own ‘Nieper Benchmarks’ for careers and employability that extend well beyond this.

But all these great achievements are only the beginning as the new headteacher hopes to improve the school even more in the coming years.

Mr White said: “I have recently embarked upon my new role. I am excited to see the impact of the work that we are doing to support pupil wellbeing, to improve attendance and work with parents to improve the academic outcomes for our pupils.”

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