TOP OF THE CLASS: Executive head Dr Janice Gorlach and head teacher Neil Williams with pupils from Teesdale Academy and Sixth Form.
TOP OF THE CLASS: Executive head Dr Janice Gorlach and head teacher Neil Williams with pupils from Teesdale Academy and Sixth Form.

THE rapid improvement in Teesdale School has been attributed to its determined and committed leadership, according to Ofsted inspectors.

Teesdale Academy and Sixth Form has been rated as “outstanding” across the board following a recent inspection. Executive headteacher Dr Janice Gorlach said: “When the North East Learning Trust took over the school three years ago there was a huge amount to do – this was a struggling school. Since it became an academy the school has seen a total redevelopment.”

The school had received a poor Ofsted report in 2015 but had the slate officially wiped clean after it joined a multi-academy trust in 2016. At the time, Dr Gorlach pledged that Teesdale School would become the best in the region.

Last week Ofsted inspectors said they were impressed by the work that has been carried out so far. In a report, they said: “The school site is now safe, bright and welcoming. New fencing has been installed around the perimeter, classrooms have been refurbished and repainted, information technology systems have been renewed and walls have been redecorated with inspirational imagery.”

Academically, the school has taken a massive leap forward, Ofsted said. The inspectors added: “Outcomes for pupils are outstanding – they have improved rapidly since the school joined the trust.”

Responding to the news, headteacher Neil Williams said: “It is hard to digest. I am delighted that the students and staff have been recognised for all their hard work.”

Dr Gorlach has revealed the school was under enormous financial pressures to close its sixth form and says risks were taken to keep it going

She said: “Many rural schools such as Teesdale Academy close their sixth forms as they believe they are not financially viable. We believe sixth form provision is vital not only for the pupils but for the whole school – sixth formers act as role models for the younger children.

“Our pupils are with us from year seven until they leave as young adults – it is important for the whole community that we maintain and develop our sixth form.”

The Ofsted report said: “The sixth form has been transformed, students currently following the 16 to 19 study programmes receive an outstanding quality of education.” Staff at Teesdale are not going to rest on their laurels, Dr Gorlach said. She added: “There are still lots of things to be done – we need to build on the curriculum and there are the sports fields to develop, as well as continuing improvements to the fabric of the school. We want the very best for our children. We are ranked in the top ten in the county – we now want to be ranked in the national standings.” Teesdale Academy is the first secondary school in County Durham since 2017, and the first since the introduction of the new curriculum, to be awarded the “outstanding” rating.