Greenwood Dale joins list of once-praised academy chains criticised by Ofsted

Janet Downs's picture

Secondary schools in rapidly growing Greenwood Dale Academies Trust (GAT) have been criticised by Ofsted following focussed inspections.

Inspectors found shared common weaknesses in secondary GAT academies: overall achievement, significant underachievement by key groups of pupils and variable quality of support.  The proportion of pupils making expected progress in English and maths was also significantly below average in almost all GAT academies.

Although GAT had been more effective with its primary schools especially during the early years, the proportion of pupils in GAT primary schools achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and maths was well below national levels.

Ofsted found governance was weak and recommended that GAT improve its effectiveness.  Other recommendations including improving outcomes, identifying and supporting academies which are not yet good and ensuring GAT has sufficient capacity to improve the performance of all its academies.

Sir Barry Day, GAT’s former chief executive who retired in July 2015, was named as one of Michael Gove’s ‘Magnificent Seven’ in March 2012.  GAT has rapidly grown since then and is now labelled a ‘system leader’ on account of its size.

Ofsted’s criticism of GAT brings the number in the ‘top’ 11 of system leaders causing concern to six.   The other five with difficulties are:

  • AET – Financial Notice to Improve, not yet closed. Ofsted letter of concern. Had to give up some of its academies.
  • TKAT – Ofsted letter of concern.
  • Plymouth CAST – Ofsted concern
  • SPTA – Ofsted letter of concern. Stripped of ‘isolated’ academies. Now working with Outwood Grange Academy Trust. Rebranded itself as Delta Academies in September.
  • Oasis: Ofsted letter of concern.

This raises the question about whether allowing MATs to grow quickly risks failure.

GAT is also in a growing list of once highly-praised academy trusts which have run into problems.  These include Perry Beeches, Cuckoo Hall Academies Trust, Barnfield Federation, Kings Science Academy, Durham Free School and Durand Academy.  All of these have been lauded on many occasions and brought to national prominence by either former education secretary Michael Gove or former Prime Minister David Cameron.

This raises a further question: how far does such fulsome praise result in overconfidence and a false feeling of invulnerability?

Since the 2010 election, education in England has faced massive change and interference.  Policy changes have been stoked by the elevation of certain MATs or individuals as exemplars for others to follow.  But many of these have not merited the praise heaped upon them.  Yet ministers continue to single out particular schools for special mention.  This is unwise and should cease.





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