A SCHOOL trust tarnished by struggles at an Oxford school has taken another hit to its reputation.

Dominic Barberi Multi Academy Company, which was slated by Ofsted last year for standards at St Gregory the Great Catholic School, has suffered a fresh wave of criticism from the education watchdog.

While scrambling to fix finances after running up a hefty deficit in 2016, standards have fallen dramatically at one of its seven Oxfordshire academies.

St Joseph's Catholic Primary School in Carterton has now been deemed 'inadequate', falling from the regulator's best to worst rating.

It is the second of the trust's schools to be rated 'inadequate', following a damning report for St Greg's last year.

Oxfordshire County Council's Liberal Democrat group has now called for 'urgent intervention' from the Government, accusing regulators of 'failing to act' to force improved standards.

The group's education spokesman, councillor John Howson, said: "We need urgent, all-party talks to find an acceptable solution to the problems facing this school [St Greg's]. 

"The Regional School Commissioner [responsible for presiding over academies] and his headteacher board have failed to act."

The Lib Dems urged the new education secretary Damian Hinds, who took over from Justine Greening this week, to take action.

Prof Howson said: "The new education secretary understands the part faith schools have play in the school system, having attended a Roman Catholic school himself. 

"He must acknowledge that the Church has failed the people of East Oxford and order the re-broking of this school to either a new trust or an existing successful trust, with experience of this type of problem. 

"The present situation cannot be allowed to continue."

A Department for Education spokesperson insisted school standards are rising, adding: "The department and the Regional Schools Commissioner are working closely with the [DBMAC] to deliver the improvements this school needs and its pupils deserve. 

"We take the safeguarding of pupils very seriously ‎and where Ofsted finds failings on this, action will be taken, as we are doing in this case."

Though the majority of the trust's schools are rated 'good' (see below for list), both St Greg's and St Joseph's are now 'inadequate'. 

The blow comes just days after DBMAC was criticised by parents, after suddenly announcing the unexplained departure of the principal and vice principal at St Greg's.

Ofsted's new report for St Joseph's states: "Directors of the [trust] have historically been preoccupied with significant financial issues in the company.

"This has had a negative impact on the capacity of leaders at St Joseph's to deliver change and improvement.

"Some staff and parents also raised a concern that it reduced the capacity of leadership at the school."

In 2013 the 165-pupil primary was rated good in all five assessment categories, three months after joining Dominic Barberi Multi Academy Company (DBMAC).

But the new report, published on Tuesday following an inspection in November, deems three of five areas 'inadequate' and the other two 'requires improvement'.

Inspectors wrote: "Representatives of the school committee are very enthusiastic and committed to their roles.

"Due to the lack of training and support [from DBMAC], however, they are not yet skilled enough in checking the impact of their own policies and leaders' actions with any rigour."

One staff member, they said, even resorted to searching online in a desperate bid for guidance about how to better fulfil their role.

Safety of children was also a key concern at the school, which teaches children aged three-11.

Referring to provision for young children, the report said: "Inspectors observed staff leaving children unsupervised, potentially putting them at risk of harm.

"Transitions between activities throughout the day are disorganised.

"Phonics teaching is weak because teachers do not routinely use the correct sounds."

The report did highlight improvements in attainment and attendance, and praised teachers for forging 'positive, caring relationships'.

David Forster, chair of directors at DBMAC, insisted improvements had been made since November.

He said: "We are confident that the changes to the leadership and structure that have been made since September will ensure rapid improvement in the areas highlighted by Ofsted.

"A recent audit of the school's safeguarding policies and procedures has found these to be robust and its new safeguarding team is working to ensure we keep the school environment safe and secure for all pupils."

He said 'experienced' educator Lisa Smith was appointed the school's headteacher in September, and the trust has recently appointed a new deputy head and governors.

He was also positive about the influence of the trust's new executive principal Fraser Long - who replaced Marcella McCarthy - who is classed as a 'national leader of education'.

DBMAC school ratings:

St Gregory the Great, East Oxford: Inadequate, May 2017

St Thomas More, Kidlington: Not yet inspected

St John Fisher, Littlemore: Good, March 2016

Our Lady's, Cowley: Good, May 2017

St Joseph's, Thame: Good, Feb 2016

St Joseph's, Carterton: Inadequate, Jan 2018

Our Lady of Lourdes, Witney: Good, June 2017