Cuckoo Hall cleared of exam maladministration

Janet Downs's picture
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The Standards and Testing Agency (STA) has cleared Cuckoo Hall Academy, part of the Cuckoo Hall Academies Trust (CHAT), of exam maladministration. In a letter dated 24 July 2015, STA said it was ‘satisfied that there is no ground for any further investigation. Therefore, this case is now closed and no action will be taken.’

CHAT runs four primary academies and one secondary academy in Enfield. The Education Funding Agency (EFA) sent CHAT a Financial Notice to Improve (FNO) in February 2015 after a damning report found unreported conflicts of interests, insufficient monitoring of credit card spending and issues around safeguarding. The FNO has not yet been lifted.

The CHAT press release said ‘We have always been clear that our results are down to the hard work of our students, excellent teaching, and the culture of high standards that runs through our schools.’ This doesn’t quite explain the dip in test results at Cuckoo Hall Academy in 2013 when the school was the worst-performing primary school in Enfield - just 54% reached Level 4 in Key Stage 2 SATS. Or why results in 2014 (76%) were slightly below the national average of 78%.

Headline results aren’t everything of course. It’s unfair to judge schools solely on test outcomes. But it’s possible that Cuckoo Hall would fall into the Government’s proposed definition of ‘coasting’ despite Ofsted judging Cuckoo Hall to be Good.

None of CHAT’s other academies has posted results yet. They are recently established free schools filling up year by year. No pupils have reached the age when they will take SATs or GCSEs. The dates when the free schools were set up appear on CHAT’s website. According to the information given, Cuckoo Hall Academy was set up in 2010. This is strictly speaking true – Cuckoo Hall converted to academy status in September 2010 from a predecessor school also called Cuckoo Hall. Academies are technically ‘new’ schools but comparisons are made between these ‘new’ schools and their predecessors. For example, in February 2015, CHAT’s website said:

In special measures 14 years ago, Cuckoo Hall Academy was turned round dramatically by Headteacher Patricia Sowter and her team.

Fourteen years ago is not 2010.

The Advertising Standards Authority queried the accuracy of this statement. Cuckoo Hall had emerged from special measures in 1999 before Sowter arrived and an Ofsted report, also before Sowter arrived, said Cuckoo Hall was a ‘very effective school’. The claim about the dramatic turnaround no longer appears on CHAT’s website.
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Comments

Barry Wise's picture
Sat, 01/08/2015 - 15:05

Janet

Very interesting.

Wasn't it the case that the allegation about 'exam fixing' was just one of a number of allegations of impropriety at Cuckoo Hall that included various charges of "bullying" staff that were brought by the same person/people and which were frequently repeated on CHAT threads here?

The credibility of the complainants has been dealt a blow by this ruling, surely?

And this one comes after an independent investigation commissioned by the Trust and carried out by a well known firm of solicitors found a number of other charges to be utterly groundless - as a result of which suspended members of the board were reinstated.

It's beginning to look like Mrs Sowter is owed an apology.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 02/08/2015 - 07:52

Barry - it does not follow that because STA has found the allegations of exam maladministration passed to STA by EFA were groundless that all other allegations are similarly groundless. The bullying was, as you say, investigated by a firm commissioned by the Trust which found no evidence of wrongdoing. However, I'm sure you'd agree that in circumstances where a Trust is the accused, then any investigation should be completely independent of the Trust and not commissioned by the Trust.

And there are also other incidents:

1 Those discovered by the EFA as listed above.
2 The Financial Notice to Improve.
3 The ASA rulings against statements on CHAT's website.
4 The promotion of the myth about 'dramatically' turning round Cuckoo Hall from special measures when the school emerged from special measures in 1999 before Sowter arrived and Ofsted, again before Sowter arrived, described Cuckoo Hall as 'very effective'.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 02/08/2015 - 07:53

The news about Cuckoo Hall being cleared doesn't seem to have picked up by the media yet. A google search for 'Cuckoo Hall exam maladministration' revealed just one: Enfield Today. The top four results listed this site and the fifth was a link to the FoI request I posted to STA through WhatDoTheyKnow.

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