The announcement came today in the wake of an inspection last month and the school said it was “shocked by the severity of the judgement”, which comes after a fall in GCSE results last summer.
Nationally an average of 60.6 per cent of students achieve five or more GCSEs at grades A* to C, including English and maths. Only 49 per cent of students at SBL reached that target – lower than the Grange School nearby which was deemed inadequate by Ofsted after a report last spring.
The news will come as a blow in particular to those parents who have moved their children from the Grange to SBL.
The Ofsted report begins: “This is a school that needs special measures.” It rates achievement of students, the quality of teaching and leadership and management as all being a 4 – the lowest grade. Behaviour and safety of pupils is rated 3 – requiring improvement.
Ofsted said achievement in GCSE exams was inadequate in both 2012 and 2013, particularly in English, maths, science and the school’s specialism, modern foreign languages.
The inspectors said boys’ achievement was consistently lower than girls, the sixth form was inadequate, the quality of teaching in maths and science was not good enough, and marking was inconsistent. They said pupil premium funding had not been used effectively and called for an external review of governance.
The school will now receive regular visits from Ofsted to check that it is improving.
SBL has consistently been graded good or outstanding since 1997. It was inspected in February and says it is determined to bring about rapid improvements to get out of special measures and regain a high Ofsted rating.
Last December the headteacher and chair of governors wrote to parents admitting that standards at SBL needed to be raised to much higher levels and that action was being taken.
And in a letter to parents of the 1,173 students today, executive headteacher David Turrell said many of them would not recognise the school that was being described by the Ofsted team: “Although there are several aspects of our provision for students which need to be improved, we were shocked by the severity of the report, and by the seeming lack of consideration of all that makes SBL a place where our students are happy and feel safe and make good progress in many subjects.”
“We believe this to be a one-year problem. Until 2013, our 5A*-C results were rising faster than the national average.”
He said they were confident that results would improve this summer in both maths and science, and improve further in 2015.
Mr Turrell said inspectors had failed to take account of the £721,000 cut to the school’s budget between 2011 and 2013. “This was probably the largest single reduction of any school in the South West and led to the loss of 14 teachers. It was compounded in early autumn 2013 when 68 additional students joined SBL after plans were announced to consult on the closure of the neighbouring Grange, meaning extra temporary staff had to be appointed, although no extra funding was received for these students.”
He said the school would be holding meetings for parents throughout next week to outline the measures it has already taken and intends to take to ensure fast improvement in standards. These include increased monitoring and intervention, use of specialist consultants in English, maths and science, appointment of a new head of science and appointment of a practising Ofsted inspector as deputy head, responsible for quality and standards.
Chair of governors Dianne Francombe said: “The school is a strong school with many high quality staff. We are all determined to recover from this setback and for the school to be judged as good again as soon as possible.”
A number of strengths of SBL were highlighted by the inspectors from Ofsted, including good curriculum developments, good achievement and teaching in humanities subjects and the performing arts and good alternative provision.
“Behaviour around school and during breaks and lunchtimes is generally good,” the report said. It noted that students said bullying was rare and were confident any incidents reported would be dealt with appropriately.
“Staff-student relationships are good,” said Ofsted. “The school’s international work supports students’ cultural development well.”