Gove “thinks academies are the cat’s whiskers – but we know some of them are not”, says Judge as he blocks enforced academy conversion

Janet Downs's picture
High Court judge, Mr Justice Collins, has granted an injunction which stops an east London school, Warren Comprehensive School, from being forced to become an academy.

In February 2013, Ofsted* judged the school to be Inadequate and placed it in “special measures”.

In October 2013, Ofsted made a second monitoring visit and said the school was making “reasonable progress towards removal of special measures”. It found the local authority, Barking and Dagenham, had “acted swiftly” after the first monitoring visit to redraft the statement of action and action plan. Inspectors said these were now “fit for purpose”.

Ofsted also noted “the provisional 2013 GCSE results show a dramatic rise in the proportion of students gaining five or more passes at Grade C or above”. This was borne out by exam data released this week: 56% of pupils reached the benchmark 5 GCSEs A*-C including maths and English in 2013. This was up from 39% in 2012.

Despite this, education secretary Michael Gove made an academy order last week which took the school out of the stewardship of Barking and Dagenham. But Mr Justice Collins disagreed with Gove’s actions and said it would be desirable for a consultation to be carried out before the school became an academy.

The BBC reported the London borough had declared the ruling to be a “victory” for the education of children in its area.

Commenting on the judgement, Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said:

“This judgement is a reflection of the deep and growing concern among parents and the wider public about the use by the coalition of forced academisation to drive through its agenda to privatise and marketise our public education system.”

A Department for Education, spokesperson, however, said the LA had failed “for at least a decade…to provide anything like a sufficient standard of education at this school”.

But the DfE comment isn’t true. In 2004 Warren Comprehensive School was put in Special Measures by Ofsted. But in 2005 a full inspection judged the school to be Satisfactory** and noted “substantial improvements in pupils’ learning and progress”. The Sixth Form was judged Good. Ofsted mentioned “good, helpful support from local authority subject consultants.”

In 2011, a second full inspection again judged Warren Comprehensive to be Satisfactory**. The school’s capacity for sustained improved was judged Good. Ofsted wrote “staff use the advice and support from the local authority and from London Challenge consultants well”.

In February 2013, as noted above, Ofsted judged the school Inadequate. But the latest monitoring inspection and the 2013 GCSE results show the school is taking steps to climb out of special measures with support from the local authority the DfE claims had done nothing for ten years.

The DfE spokesperson still insisted enforced academisation of Warren Comprehensive was a “much-needed intervention”.

It isn’t a "much-need intervention. And the High Court agreed that it wasn’t.

The DfE is going to appeal.

*Citing Ofsted judgements does not imply agreement.

**In 2005 and in 2011, “Satisfactory” meant a school was providing a satisfactory level of education. It is only recently this has been changed to “Requires Improvement”. It is misleading to apply the judgement “Requires Improvement” retrospectively.

Note: Ofsted reports for Warren Comprehensive School can be downloaded here.
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John Mountford's picture
Fri, 24/01/2014 - 21:52

The issue of schools being 'targeted' by the SofS for forced academisation is one that ought to concern every politician, parent and teacher. The fact that it receives only brief and passing attention in the media and in parliament should cause a national outrage because it flies in the face of democracy, especially of local democratic freedom. Will this happen? Like hell it will.

The democratic process is under threat in our country. Nowhere is this more evident than in the way that education reform is being manipulated at the behest of a small and extremely powerful group of people.

The stories emerging through the files of LSN provide independent, free-thinking individuals with the opportunity to express their concerns about education reform. Thank you to all the contributors who dig out these accounts and give their time to help us appreciate that, in spite of the apparent indifference of the party politicians responsible for these reforms or those turning a blind eye to their dire consequences for the future of education in our country in the name of self-interest, it has never been more important that ordinary people take the opportunity offered here to speak out.

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