Academy problems? Just close it down, erase history and start again at Year Zero.
Academies, we are told, are essential for improving schools. When Labour started the first academies we were assured these new schools would raise standards.
But not all followed the script. While success at academies such as Mossbourne were trumpeted loudly, failing academies didn’t attract such raucous publicity.
Two such struggling academies were Manchester Creative and Media Academy for Girls and Manchester Creative and Media Academy for Boys. They opened on the same site in 2009 with lead sponsor Manchester College and co-sponsors, Microsoft and Manchester City Council.
In March 2012, both were Inadequate. In June 2013, the girls’ academy was upgraded to Requires Improvement while the boys’ academy still had serious weaknesses. Inspectors noted that Schools Partnership Trust Academies (SPTA) was providing support and the Trust was being amended to include SPTA as a sponsor. However, monitoring of the boys’ academy in March 2014 said this relationship had been discontinued.
Both academies formally became co-educational in September 2014. In May 2015 Ofsted judged Manchester Creative and Media Academy (MCMA) to be Inadequate. Inspectors said the academy was in a ‘transitional phase’ of being moved to Bright Futures Educational Trust (BFET). This was odd because an announcement on BFET’s website said it would take over MCMA on 1 September 2014. The ‘transitional phase’ was obviously taking longer than expected.
In January 2016, all mention of BFET had disappeared. Ofsted monitoring revealed a new sponsor: the Co-operative Academies Trust.
According to Department for Education School Performance Tables, MCMA hasn’t just transferred to the Co-operative Academies Trust. It has closed and has ‘now become an academy’.
But it’s been an academy since 2009. It’s been associated with numerous sponsors. It’s had three full inspections and several monitoring visits. But according to officialdom, MCMA is a new academy which hasn’t been inspected. ‘No Ofsted assessment published’ says the Performance Tables. All Ofsted reports have disappeared from the ‘operating providers’ list. They’re still available as ‘closed’ schools under ‘all providers’ but are likely to ultimately vanish.
This sorry tale doesn’t end there. SPTA, once a possible co-sponsor of MCMA, has run into difficulties:
- March 2014, SPTA was censured by the Public Accounts Committee for related party transactions.
- February 2015, Inspectors visiting Hanson School, Bradford, found it had been in the process of becoming a sponsored SPTA academy for four years. Being stuck in conversion limbo for four years is hardly the swift and decisive action promised by the DfE when dealing with struggling schools.
- In June 2014 and March 2016, Ofsted sent letters criticising SPTA following focussed inspections.
Trouble also hit BFET. It received a Financial Notice to Improve in February 2016.
If this wheeze of closing Inadequate academies catches on, then the number of Inadequate academies will be reduced. A public relations triumph! And erasing the past in this way means it will be impossible to track the history of schools. This is all very convenient for any government wishing to whitewash academy performance.
UPDATE 8 July 2017: Ofsted reports for MCMA (closed Boys and closed Girls) have reappeared on Ofsted's website. They can be found by searching for Manchester Creative and Media Academy and clicking on the 'All Providers'. School performance tables 2016 still say MCMA closed in February 2016 and 'is now an academy'. The tables say 'No Ofsted Assessment published' but if you click on the link to Ofsted report you will find a reports for MCMA Girls and MCMA Boys on one single page.