Will converter academies find their new status is a poisoned chalice when Ofsted comes calling?

Janet Downs's picture
Another converter academy, Caistor Yarborough Academy in Lincolnshire, has been failed by Ofsted. Inspectors had previously judged the school to be good with outstanding features in April 2007 and found that this performance had been sustained in July 2010.

Ofsted judged the school inadequate overall despite finding no inadequate teaching. “Teachers generally plan well-structured lessons,” Ofsted discovered, and there was “some good and occasionally outstanding teaching” which resulted in pupils continuing to make satisfactory progress, “with the fastest progress being made by lower-attaining students and those with special educational needs (SEN).” Ofsted praised the academy’s support for disabled and SEN pupils – “these students make good progress and achieve well.”

However, Ofsted judged the behaviour to be inadequate. Inspectors cited low level disruption in lessons but found that pupils behaved well around the academy.

Although academy conversion can be no cast-iron guarantee of success, the school is filing a complaint with Ofsted citing 49 concerns about the inspection. It is right to be worried. Statutory responsibility for intervention in failing academies rests with the Secretary of State and he could require any academy failed by Ofsted to bring in a sponsor. This would be easier to achieve with an academy than with a local authority school. The required consultation has already taken place and the legal process has been completed. A converter academy failed by Ofsted is ripe for sponsorship by one of an increasing number of academy chains.

Governing bodies who lobbied so hard for their schools to become academies may now find that they are dismissed and an interim body set up in their place. Instead of a local authority using its resources to help schools failed by Ofsted, converter academies will find that the responsibility for improvement lies with the Department for Education. This may cause governing bodies still considering conversion to pause while governing bodies in already-converted academies may begin to dread a visit by Ofsted.

They create a prison and call it freedom.”

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Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 18/04/2012 - 16:00

They should also take Ofsted to court as Furness Academy have done. The law is on their side. The consequences of the finding of an inspection have to be proportionate to the nature of the issues arising. Special measures is only proportionate in the most extreme cases of failure.

A few more judicial reviews and this horror story will be stopped in its tracks as Ofsted will be subject to an Independent Commission and forced to get in line not only with law but also with the way in which our credible inspectorates who are governed by it interpret it.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 18/04/2012 - 16:28

As I said in the original post, Caistor Yarborough Academy has filed a complaint. I have read the Ofsted report and think that Ofsted's judgement of inadequate overall is harsh. There was no inadequate teaching and the academy seems to be doing particularly well with disabled and special needs pupils. I hope the academy does take Ofsted to court.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 18/04/2012 - 16:34

Most schools don't realise they can go to court too. The two processes are separate. When the world suddenly caves in as it does when you get such an Ofsted judgement it's hard for them to fight one battle let alone two but that's what they need to do and that's what Furness Academy did.

Visitor's picture
Wed, 18/04/2012 - 20:47

The world has caved in at Holbrook High School, Suffolk too. It is a very small academy (500 pupils 11-16) in a middle class rural catchment and is renowned locally for excellence in sport and music. The year 9 basketball team got through to the last 16 in the Country last term. Up until OFSTED visited in February, it was a good school. Now it appears to be failing. We are awaiting the report, which has been delayed, and so we still do not know the details, but the school which our children love (and in which they are thriving academically) appears to be in the process of being totally disrupted for no reason. What gets forgotten in all this is that the children will only get one opportunity to go to school.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 18/04/2012 - 21:01

Same applies - is there anybody who can support them through the process of taking Ofsted to court. They need a parent with time and a parent with money.

But more than anything people need to support the head so the head can support the staff so the staff can support the kids.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 19/04/2012 - 07:42

The Ofsted report for Holbrook High is expected to be published on Monday 23 April. A local paper says the head will be on leave for personal reasons “with immediate effect. According to the paper Ofsted was concerned about falling GCSE results. The School Performance Tables show a fall in the percentage of pupils gaining the benchmark 5+ GCSEs A*-C (including Maths and English) from 71% in 2009 to 57% in 2011. This seems rather a low percentage for a school which had 41% high attainers and only 7% low attainers in the 2011 cohort.

Clearly there is an area of concern when only 88% of high attainers reach the government benchmark. In a neighbouring school, Kesgrave High School, Ipswich, which has a similar intake (45% high attainers, 13% low), 97% of high attainers reached the benchmark. However, whether the low pass rate at Holbrook is enough to damn it as inadequate will not be known until Ofsted publishes the report.

If there had been a negative Ofsted while Holbrook High was still maintained by the local authority, then the LA would be at the school discussing ways to improve. But the responsibility for intervention is now with the Secretary of State which means that the Governors will have to put together their own strategies for improvement and submit it to the SoS. They could, of course, request help from a chain… Or maybe the Sos won't like the Governors' strategies and impose an Interim Board. The present Governing Body would then be sacked.




Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 19/04/2012 - 08:00

The article suggest that whatever the issues were with last years results they've been addressed but the teachers are claiming the results should be better this year. Why inspect now instead of in the Autumn?

Kevin Campbell's picture
Thu, 10/05/2012 - 18:38

From the looks of their Ebacc, and Ebacc individual subject, percentages it appears that they haven't got the crossover in subject areas and they also haven't tried to beat the system.

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