A SKIPTON primary school is set to become part of an academy trust as it makes 'reasonable progress' to get out of special measures.

The news about St Stephen's RC Primary School comes as it has been revealed that long-serving headteacher Peter Thompson has decided to resign.

The Diocese of Leeds has brokered an agreement that will see the Gargrave Road school join the Bishop Wheeler Academy Trust, a group of Catholic schools in the Wharfe Valley, on August 1.

Alixena Lubomski, headteacher of Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School in Ilkley, will continue to act as executive head of St Stephen’s until the end of the summer term. She has served in the role since November.

Mr Thompson has been on long-term sick leave since the autumn term. The governors praised his 18-year association with the school as one of passionate dedication and deep commitment.

In a letter to parents, Janet Sheehan, chairman of governors, wrote that Mr Thompson was a "highly respected and significant figure in the life of the school" and "the pastoral care he offered to the children and their families was given with love and compassion".

The school also recently had its third monitoring inspection since Ofsted placed it in special measures in February 2014.

Inspectors Gina White and Cathryn Kirby carried out the inspection on March 18 and 19 and concluded the school was 'making reasonable progress'.

Mrs Sheehan said: “There are plenty of positives in the report for us to celebrate and very helpful indications of what we need to do to accelerate improvement even more.”

The inspection highlighted improvements across the school and particularly pointed to the school addressing a legacy of underachievement.

In the report, St Stephen's whole-school focus on reading and writing is addressed.

Mrs White says: "Work to develop reading throughout the school is having a positive impact on pupil's writing, especially in Years Two and Six. School data also shows steady improvements in reading across most classes as a result of regular reading sessions. In Year Six, many pupils are making faster progress in reading and writing and are starting to overcome the legacy of underachievement."

However, the report notes "rates of progress in writing and mathematics remain varied across classes in Key Stage 1 and lower Key Stage 2".

Mrs Lubomski said the school was working to improve mathematics, but explained: "When the school went into special measures literacy was a big concern, so there has been a huge amount of work by staff in getting reading and writing back to where it should be."

The report also highlights that temporary teachers are covering for illness and management commitments and a replacement for a recently resigned teacher had yet to be secured.

Mrs White says "several incidences of staff absence have broken continuity in teaching for some pupils".

"We have a member of staff on long-term sick," said Mrs Lubomski. "That's not unusual, and school leaders have put a fully qualified teacher in place who is being mentored and coached."

Despite the school's move to join the academy trust and the local authority's role diminishing, Mrs Lubomski said Ofsted's special measures designation remained in place.

"With the school in this situation, you cannot leave it to run," she said. "We have to monitor it closely."

She said once the school was in the trust Ofsted would not come back to do termly inspections, but inspections from other schools in the trust would take place instead.

"The individuality of each school remains strong but St Stephen's would receive ongoing support."

The governing body, which had 11 members, will be temporarily disbanded and replaced by a strategic intervention board made up of six members.