“Hundreds of primary schools which were struggling under council control have now been paired up with academy sponsors, and the children in those schools are at last getting up to speed in the 3Rs.”
Michael Gove, Department for Education press release, 7 March 2014*
But many “struggling” primary schools have improved results without becoming academies as Henry Stewart’s analysis
However, the press release recognised the achievement of several schools. Here are four of them:
Ryecroft Primary Academy, Bradford
Results shot up between 2012 and 2013. But the school only became an academy in September 2012. In October 2012 the CEO of Northern Education Trust, Ryecroft’s sponsor, said the “green shoots
” of recovery were already present. Ofsted judged the predecessor school Good in July 2010. The school’s capacity for sustained improvement was Outstanding. Any improvement, therefore, built on the strong foundations laid by the previous community school.
Doncaster Road Primary School, Barnsley
The DfE implied Doncaster Road was in special measures and would be joining the Pioneer Academies Co-operative Trust (PACT
). But thanks to the hard work of the head, her staff and the support of Barnsley local authority, the school was upgraded to Requires Improvement in November 2013. A parents’ newsletter
proudly quoted correspondence from the Executive Director of Children, Young People and Families in Barnsley which said, “It is clear that the children of Doncaster Road Primary School are now receiving a much improved quality of education”. An Ofsted monitoring report last month said, “There are no longer any plans for the school to become an academy”.
Southwark Primary School, Nottingham
Ofsted judged Southwark Primary School as Good in January. The DfE praised the school’s extended opening hours from 7.30 am until 6. This built on work done at the predecessor school: Ofsted (June 2011, before conversion) found the breakfast and after-school club managed by the governing body made “a significant contribution to pupils' well-being”. An earlier DfE case study
said the “primary academy” was “working hard to free pupils from the poverty trap”. This was a feature of the Outstanding predecessor school: inspectors wrote:
“The school provides high-quality care, guidance and support. That applies particularly for those pupils who, because of their circumstances, might be vulnerable. The school's work with other caring and support agencies on behalf of these pupils is exemplary.”
Harris Primary Academy Philip Lane, Haringey
Key Stage 2 results rose in 2013 although Harris Federation didn’t begin sponsoring the academy, formerly Downhills school, until the previous September. The rise in results was noticeable before conversion: Ofsted noted “a clear trend of improvement” in September 2011 and said the school had received “good support” from the local authority in helping the school out of special measures.
The DfE said the academy used its freedoms to prioritise the early years but Ofsted (January 2012) praised Downhills for developing pupils’ basic skills in the Early Years Foundation Stage because teaching was “sharply focused on children’s individual needs”.
Downhills was noted for the high standard of its art work – pupils’ work displayed in the National Gallery
in 2012. An Ofsted monitoring visit since Downhills became an academy found the excellent art teaching had continued.
It’s clear from these case studies that the three academies and the one non-academy have all built on work done in previous years when under the stewardship of local authorities. It is disingenuous of the DfE to pretend these improvements are solely because of academy status.
All four schools deserve praise – what a pity the DfE spun their achievement to promote academy status.
*At the time of writing the press release wasn’t available on the DfE website
Ofsted reports can be downloaded here