THE county's first vocational free school has been found to have ‘serious weaknesses’ less than two years after it opened, an Ofsted report said.

The Robert Owen Academy, which has 49 pupils and opened in September 2013, was found to be inadequate in four of five categories with inspectors raising concerns over the quality of teaching, pupil behaviour and underachievement.

Inspectors visited the academy in May this year and found that teaching was not challenging enough and that there was a high number of exclusions, with too many students regularly absent.

The academy, which delivers a vocational curriculum, alongside core GCSE qualifications, was temporarily sited at the former Holme Lacy Primary School but has since moved to the old Hereford High School for Boys site in Blackfriars Street.

Inspectors also said that in the first year of the academy, leaders, governors and trustees didn’t have a strong enough impact on the quality of teaching, achievement and behaviour and safety.

However, inspectors said the principal had a “clear understanding” of how to improve and had high expectations of staff and students.

Andrew Hubble, principal of the Robert Owen Academy, said: “Although we are naturally very disappointed with the overall judgement, we were pleased that inspectors were able to report on real improvements made this year.

"We are already working hard on the areas for improvement with staff and students and have ambitious plans for the future now that we are able to access the full range of facilities on site.”

  • More on this in next week's Hereford Times.