From Outstanding to Special Measures in less than 3 years: same head, same chair of governors. What issues does this raise?

Janet Downs's picture
Trinity Academy, Doncaster, a sponsored academy established in 2005, was judged Outstanding in March 2011.

But Ofsted overturned this in December 2013. Trinity Academy was placed in special measures. The previously good teaching was inadequate; the curriculum was inadequate; leadership was inadequate. Ofsted said it would “make recommendations about the governance to the authority responsible for the school”. The "authority responsible" is the Emmanuel Schools Foundation which has sponsored Trinity (with a brief interlude when it was sponsored by ULT in 2010/12) since it began.

It appears, then, something has gone wrong at Trinity Academy according to Ofsted. But the chair of governors, Nigel Robson, was the same one who chaired the governing body when Trinity was previously judged Outstanding. The head at the time of the December 2013 inspection, Ian Brew, has led Trinity Academy since it was first established.

On 7 February 2014, when the Ofsted report was published, the Doncaster Free Press carried a photo of Ian Brew describing him as the Principal of Trinity Academy. Three days later, on 10 February, the Future Leaders Trust tweeted that David Page had been made Acting Principal and boasted how this was “the 66th Future Leader headship appointment!”.

According to the academy's website Ian Brew has gone into “retirement”. But there’s no details of any presentation or ceremony which usually accompanies the departure of a long-serving head.

Meanwhile, TES carries an advert, dated 14 February 2014, for a Vice-Principal at Trinity Academy. The information linked in the advert makes no mention of the recent Inadequate judgement but highlights the Outstanding Ofsted of 2011.

The Board of Directors at Trinity Academy said the Board was “extremely disappointed” at the Inadequate judgement which came “after nine years of considerable improvement and success”.

The situation at Trinity Academy raises several issues:

1Outstanding judgements are not infinite. The longer ago an Ofsted judgement was made, the less pertinent it is for today. Situations change. But Outstanding schools are usually exempt from Ofsted full inspections unless they raise concern.

2The advert for Acting Principal doesn’t mention the Inadequate rating. An odd omission, in the circumstances.

3There’s no prominent mention of the Inadequate rating on the academy’s website although there’s a link under the heading “Ofsted”. Surely schools have a duty to inform parents immediately about Ofsted judgements? At Trinity Academy, however, comments appeared in the local press but not on the academy’s website.

But the issue that will send a shiver down the spine of heads is the sudden departure of the head. It’s a reminder that a head’s career hangs on Ofsted’s judgements or this year’s exam results. A drop in either of these could result in a request, implied or otherwise, to clear desks and go on “sick leave” or sudden “retirement”. This fear reduces heads’ confidence. At the same time it deters candidates to apply for headships not just for challenging schools but for schools previously judged Outstanding. Unless heads can stay balanced at this precarious peak the only way is down.

Note: Citing Ofsted reports does not imply agreement.
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Roger Titcombe's picture
Sun, 16/02/2014 - 10:14

This is of enormous significant. As you point out little is likely to have changed since the previous 'outstanding' judgement.

If this is true then either this Ofsted judgement must be grossly wrong or the last one was.

The current Chief Inspector of Schools is on record as stating that Academies and Free Schools will be inspected 'without fear of favour'. This did not appear to be the case under the previous New Labour regime.

If this is a sign of things to come then Sir Michael Wilshaw may be putting his promise into practice, in which case we can expect a lot more like this as Ofsted works its way through Academy chains one Academy at a time. Could it be that the DfE free market extremists have been catching a whiff of this for some time and this is the reason for moves to keep Ofsted out of Academies and Free Schools?

A genuinely independent and robust Ofsted is to be welcomed.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 16/02/2014 - 11:11

Roger - Trinity had been judged Good in 2007. Ian Brew was head and Ofsted praised his leadership. During the 2011 inspection, Trinity was temporarily sponsored by ULT as the four Emmanuel academies had been handed over to ULT. According to an ex-principal of another Emmanuel academy, John Burn, the negotiations were in secret.

However, in 2012 ULT cut ties with the four Emmanuel academies. The newly-appointed CEO of ULT said the four Emmanuel academies "promoted a kind of biblical Christianity – whereas that was not our ethos."

Emmanuel Schools Foundation took the four academies over again.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 16/02/2014 - 11:13

Roger - this thoughtful presentation calls for Ofsted to be reformed:

Phil Taylor's picture
Sun, 16/02/2014 - 12:46

Whilst it is hard to believe that a school can really change so radically in such a short time, I'm sure that this kind of thing has happened before. Perhaps someone can jog my memory. The only somewhat comparable case I can think of at the moment involved a change of head.

I agree that either the first or the second report must have been very flawed. Of course, as I noted in the TES when Chris Woodhead made a similar remark about a discrepency in a school's SATs results and the Ofsted judgement, there is a further explanation. They could both be rubbish.

The Orwellian obliteration of the head is certainly nothing new. I sometimes think that Enoch Powell's remark about poiltics, that all politicians' careers end in failure, is about as true of scchool leaders' careers , certainly since the arrival of Ofsted.

There may come a time when they will run out of suitable candidates, if they haven't already.

Andy V's picture
Sun, 16/02/2014 - 13:15

Set against the DFE performance Table (up to 2013 results) and Ofsted Data Dashboard (up to 2012 results), there appears to be insufficient evidence to validate special measures, which cannot be said of the Staltham HS scenario. Interestingly a common denominator is that the Lead Inspector for both schools were HMIs as opposed to Additional Inspectors.

In the case of Trinity I find it disconcerting that they are criticized for having too few pupils 'exceed' the expected levels of progress in E&M. This begs the question, when did exceeding expected progress become a floor target, let alone limiting floor target? That said, when digging further into the report it becomes apparent that to make insightful comment one would need to see the RoL data e.g. achievement by the range of learners (e.g. from SEN through middle to higher ability learners). The spread of VA in the latest performance table indicates that Trinity is hovering just below the par benchmark. Maths is clearly an area of under performance.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Sun, 16/02/2014 - 14:55

Janet - I agree with most of your Heads Round Table link. However imperfect Ofsted may be it is hard to believe that such failings alone could account for moving from 'outstanding' to 'special measures' in such a short time.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Sun, 16/02/2014 - 15:00

There are many possible hypotheses. The end of an Ofsted regime that treated Academies differently to LA schools remains one. This was certainly true for the first inspections of the first Academies. There was an protocol agreed between DfES and Ofsted that agreed that only inspectors from a specially trained team would be allowed to inspect Academies. I don't know when that agreement ended.

Andy V's picture
Sun, 16/02/2014 - 15:03

Interesting. What is the source for that DfES/Ofsted protocol? Does this imply an agreement brokered by Labour?

Barry Wise's picture
Sun, 16/02/2014 - 18:22

At KS4 the serious underperformance appears to be concentrated among 20 or so students with prior low attainment. The rest seem to be within the ballpark for attainment and progress. That says to me a particular problem with the bottom set rather than a school-wide dysfunctionality, as special measures implies. Odd. There's a cryptic remark about some parents having contacted Ofsted before the inspection. That could explain why an outstanding school was inspected so soon.

Andy V's picture
Sun, 16/02/2014 - 18:33

One also needs to factor in that 80+ middle ability pupils underachieved in the 5 A*-C including E&M area and only 55% and 82% of the middle and high ability pupils made expected progress in maths. The best 8 for disadvantaged pupils was also weak at 970. The progress indicates for A Level, GCSE and Vocational are practically all negative.

Hence I suspect that the RoL would not make good reading and as Barry highlights there were parental complaints prior to the inspect that almost certainly contributed to an early than expected visit.

Frustrated Teacher's picture
Sun, 16/02/2014 - 21:12

I can't help thinking that the impending demise of the influence of GCSE 'equivalents' in the performance data is part of the reason as well. When that happens many academies will fall below the floor target. It must be obvious to Wilshaw that having lots of schools judged by OfSTEd as good or outstanding but with results below floor targets is simply untenable - something has to give.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Mon, 17/02/2014 - 08:42

Andy - There is nothing new about large numbers of parental complaints about this school and Academies in particular. Parents give up when they realise that their schools' governing bodies are not governors in any proper sense and that their kid's schools are completely unaccountable. Ofsted never used to take the slightest notice of complaints against Academies. More support for my conjecture.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Mon, 17/02/2014 - 08:54

Frustrated Teacher - I am sure you are right about the implications for Academies following the demise of equivalents. However don't forget that Academies were Blair's vanguard for degrading the whole school system with them. Funny how the special HMI Inspection team that exclusively inspected the early Academies never commented on equivalents except to praise curriculums loaded with them.

As Henry and Janet have pointed out Academies have always made more use of equivalents than LA schools. This is why PWC were able to report that they were 'improving twice as fast as LA schools'. It was true but only in the sense that they were degrading their curriculums twice as fast as LA schools, especially where low intake SATs (and CATs in many chains) show that a cognitively enhancing curriculum was most needed.

Again, more support for my conjecture. Now that equivalents no longer count then it is to expected that Academies will be going into Special Measures twice as fast as other schools. The free marketeers in the DfE and elsewhere have noticed. Hence the pressure on the Chief Inspector that is only going to increase.

Posters on LSN need to support him!

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 17/02/2014 - 09:32

Frustrated Teacher - Trinity's use of equivalents doesn't appear to have been excessive. The 2013 results drop from 58% reaching the benchmark to 50% when equivalents are removed. Results at some other sponsored academies in Doncaster make greater use:

Outwood Academy Adwick, drop from 61% to 24%;
Ash Hill Academy, sponsored by School Partnership Trust (SPTA), down from 40% to 26%;
Rossington All Saints (SPTA), down from 57% to 35%;

Roger Titcombe's picture
Mon, 17/02/2014 - 09:37

Andy - When studying early Academy Ofsted reports I found a reference to a 'protocol' agreed between DfES and Ofsted. I obtained this protocol by means of an FOI request. This is it in full.


OFSTED involvement in the Academies policy

1. Academies Division (AD) [of DfES] will seek advice from OFSTED – through the OFSTED Academy lead HMI [the lead of a special group of HMI] - on initial proposals for an Academy prior to moving into the Feasibility phase.

2. AD will inform OFSTED prior to submitting to Ministers a proposal to enter into a funding agreement to enter the Implementation phase and to establish an Academy.

3. AD will keep OFSTED informed of progress, and provide OFSTED with the opportunity to contribute to the development of the Academies policy, through termly meetings between OFSTED and AD.

OFSTED involvement with Academies and their predecessor schools.

4. OFSTED monitoring letters of visits to low attaining secondary schools in receipt of Leadership Incentive Grant (LIG), Special Measures (SM) and any other OfSTED visits to schools will be copied to the AD OFSTED contact point who will arrange for them to be forwarded to relevant AD colleagues.

Predecessor schools.

5. When they enter Feasibility phase, each Academy predecessor school will have a named AD lead Adviser. OFSTED will ensure that the lead monitoring HMI (for those schools which are subject to SM) or the HMI who visits the school (under the arrangements for LIG schools, if it is not subject to SM) are aware of the school’s transition to Academy status. The OFSTED lead Academy HMI will discuss progress or concerns about the school with the AD lead adviser to ensure a coordinated approach with the predecessor school during the period leading up to opening as an Academy. This will take place at termly AD/OFSTED meetings.

7. All of the predecessor schools will receive a visit during the Academy’s Implementation phase The timing of this visit will be discussed at the termly AD/OFSTED meetings and will usually be scheduled for the term following the start of the Implementation phase. However, if the school has recently been inspected by OFSTED or if there are other circumstances where OFSTED and AD agree that it would be of benefit for a visit to take place at a different point, including during the Feasibility phase, then alternative arrangements may be agreed at the termly meetings

8. The AD Adviser lead will send OFSTED a short summary of progress with the Academy proposal prior to HMI’s monitoring visit.

9. HMI will report any concerns raised by their findings during visits. If the concerns are significant or if there are other circumstances which make such a course of action appropriate, HMI reserve the right the right to make a return visit. If HMI judge that the school is failing to provide an acceptable standard of education and requires special measures, HMI have a duty to publish a report which states this.
Newly opened Academies.

10. All Academies will be visited by HMI, normally between the second and sixth term after opening. These monitoring visits* will normally be undertaken by one or two HMI over two days. HMI will report their findings orally and in writing. If they have concerns, these will be identified clearly; if the concerns are serious, HMI may arrange to make one or more further monitoring visits before the school has its section 3, deemed section 10 inspection. This is without prejudice to HMCI’s power to cause any school to be inspected at any time.

11. OFSTED and AD will consider the optimum timing for HMI to make a monitoring visit to a newly-opened Academy. An initial monitoring visit may be made as early as the second term if OFSTED or AD have serious concerns about the Academy’s progress, or if OFSTED and AD agree that such a visit will be helpful in promoting the Academy’s progress. This may be the case, for example, where there were serious concerns about the performance of the predecessor school or schools, and these concerns had not been addressed prior to the opening of the Academy. If the findings of the initial visit are positive, then further monitoring visits may not be necessary.

12. All Academies will be inspected by HMI within three years of opening unless there are exceptional circumstances. Until August 2005, they will be be undertaken by HMI under section 3 of the School Inspections Act, will result in a published report and will be deemed to be section 10 inspections under the Act.. From September 2005 all Academies will be inspected within three years of opening under the new national inspection arrangements. The first inspection of an Academy will be led by HMI.

13. The above procedure has been agreed between the DfES and OFSTED to acknowledge and accommodate the new and different nature of academies. Because academies are not yet numerous, it would be difficult, under the current inspection arrangements, for registered inspectors to gain experience of visiting them. HMI who undertake the visits will have a good understanding of academies. The inspection of all academies by HMI will help to ensure that a consistent approach is adopted, and this will be reinforced by the involvement of some HMI in the inspections of several academies.

*A monitoring visit is an inspection under section 3 of the School Inspections Act 1996.

Revised November 2004.

Point 12 about Academy inspections coming under national arrangements fro 2005 did not appear to take place because a revised protocol, very similar to this one was agreed in March 2006. I do not know for how long these special arrangements were in place.

The OfSTED website at that time ( contained the following clear and unambiguous statement.

“We do not report to government ministers but directly to Parliament (and to the Lord Chancellor about children and family courts administration). This independence means you can rely on us for impartial information.”

This was directly contradicted by the Protocol. For example:

Para 4: that OfSTED monitoring letters of visits to ‘low attaining’ secondary schools’ will be copied to the AG [Ofsted] contact point will then arrange for them to be forwarded to relevant AD colleagues

Para 5: Ofsted will ensure that the lead monitoring HMI (for those schools which are subject to SM) or the HMI who visits the school (under other arrangements) is aware of the school’s transition to Academy status. The Ofsted lead Academy HMI will discuss progress or concerns about the school with the AG lead adviser to ensure a coordinated approach with the predecessor school during the period leading up to opening as an Academy. This will take place at termly AG/Ofsted meetings.

There were 19 full inspections of academies between December 2004 and May 2007. These were carried out under the leadership of just eight HMI. With one exception, all of these lead HMI were also members of the inspection teams of other academies. I compiled a list of lead HMIs with the number of academies for which he/she led the inspection, followed by the number of academies for which he/she was a member of the inspection team.

West London Academy was inspected in September 2006 by two of the special Ofsted HMI team, one of whom was the Group Leader.

The 2006 GCSE/GNVQ examination results would therefore have been available to the inspection team. These showed that just 14% of pupils were entered for Double Award science with only 9% obtaining an A*-C pass. Double Award science was the course recommended by DfES for all pupils. A further 77% were entered for single award science but only 16% achieved A*-C. Just 6% gained an A*-C in history and only 2% in geography. In European languages just one pupil obtained an A*-C in French and three pupils in German. Only 25% of pupils gained five A*-Cs including English and maths.

The only comment in the inspection report related to these results was, “The secondary phase curriculum is satisfactory’”. The judgements on the sixth form were however damning. The curriculum provision was graded as inadequate, lacking breadth and balance, and offered only a limited range of courses. The HMI did not made the obvious link between the poverty of provision for mainstream academic subjects at KS4 and the ability of the school to provide a full range of opportunities in the sixth form. Given the minimal provision in science, humanities and languages it must have been be questionable whether the school had the teachers with the necessary specialist expertise to successfully teach these subjects at A Level or to more than a handful of pupils at GCSE. The report says nothing about the expertise and qualifications of the teaching staff and their consequent ability to deliver a broad and balanced curriculum for all pupils.

It was not just the curriculum in the sixth form that was judged inadequate, but also the general provision of education and services for meeting the needs of learners.

This would seem to be a clear judgement of inadequacy of the sixth form as a whole, inviting the conclusion that the school was failing to give its sixth form students an acceptable standard of education; normally a signal for the imposition of Special Measures or at least a Notice to Improve.

This was the Ofsted (HMI) letter to parents about the outcome of the inspection.

"We were thrilled to see the huge improvements since our first HMI visit over a year ago.
Your GCSE results were really good.
The principal, the headteacher and the academy leadership team have worked really hard and it’s(sic) paying off.
Your academy is remarkable.
We hope that your academy, with your help, just keeps getting better and better."

Surely the proper role of OfSTED and HMI with regard to the DfES, the Academies Group, and pupils and parents, was not to 'hope' for improvement but to judge and report impartially on the success of the school in providing high quality education.

Because of the high level of support and advice given by OfSTED to the academies programme it was even more important that these schools were inspected impartially on the same basis as other schools. It seems clear that this was not the case.

It is self evident that organisations trusted to report objectively on standards in public services should not be too close to the authority that promotes, organises and manages those services.

Andy V's picture
Mon, 17/02/2014 - 13:16

Roger, perhaps not I've no way of knowing or validating the frequency and/or nature of complaints. What I do know from HMCI's public announcements is that in recent times he formally unveiled that Ofsted will respond to such complaints and will visit the schools involved. Indeed, such visits have already started.

For me this underscores the growing differences between HMCI and the SOS Educ and may add to the reasons why HMCI accused DFE (Gove) of briefing against him.

Add to the issue of HMCI wanting all non-association independent schools to fall under the same Ofsted rigour as state schools and the rift begins to took more like a measurable crack!

Andy V's picture
Mon, 17/02/2014 - 14:24

Thank you Roger, I find it fascinating that the previous Labour government are at the bottom of this situation; and that it laid the foundation stones upon which the coalition government has built its backdoor privatization pedestal.

It is also pertinent to note that there is no substantive difference between Ofsted and HMI. The latter is an integral part of the former. Indeed, many inspections are led by or involve an HMI on the team. For then this raises questions regarding the idea that HMIs should replace existing inspection team composition. Evidence of this has been most recently highlighted by Janet in this thread and Stalham HS.

I for one do not, then, hold HMI to the holy grail of impartial supportive inspections.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Mon, 17/02/2014 - 15:05

Andy - No, but DfES appeared to believe it was necessary to have a powerful expert group within Ofsted that it could collude with in ensuring that the Academy plan would not be endangered by rogue inspectors. It looks as if their solution was to identify a tight team of 'sound' HMI and call this the Ofsted Academies Group (AG) with only AG being allowed to inspect Academies.

Would the current Chief Inspector have gone along with this? Only he knows, but my guess is that he would not. Hence the growing tension.

I have been in any doubt about the key role of Tony Blair and Andrew Adonis in preparing the way for Gove's onslaught.

Frustrated Teacher's picture
Mon, 17/02/2014 - 16:53

Thanks for the data, Janet. My point was a general one about reasons why OfSTEd is suddenly more aggressive towards Academies, but the data for Trinity is interesting anyway. Nonetheless I wouldn't have thought that 50% sounds 'outstanding' to most people.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 17/02/2014 - 17:12

Frustrated Teacher - it depends on a school's intake. A school with an intake skewed towards the bottom end might still be providing its pupils with a good education despite having low results. The EEF discovered a couple of years ago that many "below-floor" schools were doing a good job in difficult circumstances.

The opposite is true, of course, high results could mask poor education provision. Chatham Grammar School for Boys was found Inadequate in June 2013.

Frustrated Teacher's picture
Tue, 18/02/2014 - 20:44

Yes, absolutely right. OfSTEd judgements and exam results are both quite meaningless and misleading. Interestingly, Trinity has an impressive statistic regarding EBacc which raises further questions about the lastest OfSTEd findings.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Wed, 19/02/2014 - 16:46

The Performance tables now give the average grade per GCSE for pupils with low (L3 or lower), middle (L4) and high (L5 or higher) SATs attainment . I think this is a very significant measure that deserves more attention. These are Trinity's figures.

Low - E-
Middle - D
HIgh - B-

89 per cent of the cohort were middle or high SATs attainers, so this is not good.

Average Entries per pupil was 14. This also seems odd and suggests that equivalents do feature strongly in the curriculum.

Andy V's picture
Thu, 20/02/2014 - 17:16

What is really needed is the RoL not just for 2013 (unvalidated) but 2012 and 2011 validated. This would address the national transition indices for each cohort and give a far more detailed picture of the expected progress data. However, in the absence of this a comparison of the 2011-13 DFE Performance Tables is relatively revealing in terms of not stalled improvement and a backward step in maths alongside under performance in the large middle ability group and small low ability group. The SEN and ESL data over the 3 period reflects figures well below national average and as such does not form a drag anchor for pupils of all ability ranges making good progress.

It also strikes me that while there may be a mismatch in the correlation of pupils attaining both E&M at C or above that is holding the academy back, there seems to be a marked margin of under achievement in non-core subjects?

The average KS2 score inidicates a healthy in-take:

No of pupils at end of KS4 /Av KS2 score

2011 2012 2013
210 / 27.8213 / 27.8 208 / 28.1

No in cohort / % of cohort

2011 - 34/16%
2012 - 34/16%
2013 - 23/11%

2011 - 114/55%
2012 - 103/49%
2013 - 123/61%

2011 - 60/29%
2012 - 73/35%
2013 - 56/28%

No in cohort / % of cohort

2011 - 1/1%
2012 - 1/1%
2013 - 2/1%

SA+ & Full Statement
2011 - 7/3%
2012 - 8/4%
2013 - 6/3%

Percentage gaining 5 A*-C (including equivalent)

2011 - 59
2012 - 57
2013 - 58

2011 - 6
2012 - 3
2013 - 0

2011 - 59
2012 - 48
2013 - 50

2011 - 95
2012 - 93
2013 - 98

Percentage gaining 5 A*-C

2011 - 59
2012 - 57
2013 - 58

2011 - 6
2012 - 3
2013 - 0

2011 - 59
2012 - 48
2013 - 52 (* recorded as 2% higher than including equivalents)

2011 - 95
2012 - 93
2013 - 98

No entered / % gaining the EBacc

2011 - 83/20%
2012 - 75/19%
2013 - 126/21%

2011 - 0/0%
2012 - 0/0%
2013 - 0/0%

2011 - 40/11%
2012 - 29/11%
2013 - 67/ 7%

2011 - 43/50%
2012 - 45/38%
2013 - 55/61%

Percentage making expected progress in English

2011 - 77
2012 - 60
2013 - 74

2011 - 55
2012 - 39
2013 - 35

2011 - 76
2012 - 58
2013 - 72

2011 - 90
2012 - 73
2013 - 93

Percentage making expected progress in Maths

2011 - 58
2012 - 74
2013 - 59

2011 - 21
2012 - 34
2013 - 17

2011 - 59
2012 - 74
2013 - 55

2011 - 78
2012 - 89
2013 - 82

Closing the gap : Best 8 VA

2011 - 1015.8
2012 - 1029
2013 - 970.9

2011 - 1018.3
2012 - 1025.1
2013 - 1010

NB: The data is lifted directly from the DFE material for 2011-13 inclusively

Should anyone wish to interrogate the data further for ease of reference and posting I will include 2011 below and add the other two years on separate posts below:

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