Harris builds on Downhill’s improvements – Philip Lane Academy now Good

Janet Downs's picture
Harris Primary Academy Philip Lane, the renamed Downhills Primary School, has been judged Good by Ofsted, according to the Times*.

The Times said the result is a “vindication” of the decision of Education Secretary Michael Gove to force Downhills to become an academy under the Harris chain from September 2012. The paper said the Ofsted report, which hasn’t yet been officially published on Ofsted’s website, “poses hard questions for campaigners who fought him [Gove] tooth and nail.” The article reminds readers Gove had described these campaigners as “ideologues who are happy with failure – the enemies of promise”. The result should, the Times said, boost the reputation of Harris.

But there’s one flaw in the paper's argument – Downhills was already improving.

Downhills had been judged Inadequate in January 2011 despite the quality of teaching being Satisfactory (although variable), leadership and management Satisfactory and effectiveness of care, guidance and support being Good. The judgement appeared to have been influenced by the poor 2009 results when just 40% of Downhills’ pupils achieved Level 4 in the Key Stage 2 Sats. Pupils hadn’t taken Sats in 2010 because of the test boycott.

The number achieving Level 4 rose to 63% in 2011, just over the target set by the Department for Education. An Ofsted monitoring report in September 2011 said Downhills was making “satisfactory progress” towards raising achievement and there was “a clear trend of improvement”. HMI Kekshan Salaria said the “core of experienced senior staff with high levels of expertise” was providing effective help and local authority support was good.

Downhills' results had risen; Ofsted said the school was improving. But Gove said it wasn’t – it was failing.

Ofsted duly returned in January 2012 and did a full inspection with Kekshan Salaria as lead inspector. This overturned the findings of the monitoring report and judged Downhills Inadequate.

In 2012, results rose again: 67% reached Level 4. And art work by Downhills pupils was considered outstanding enough to be displayed in the National Gallery. But Ofsted’s monitoring report in July 2012 made no mention of this achievement. It reported the school was still struggling although the local authority had “provided a range of support to help the school make satisfactory progress in laying the foundations for improvement.”

So, results were still rising and “foundations for improvement” were present before Harris took over.

In 2013, the way of measuring Key Stage 2 results changed so a comparison with 2012 isn’t possible because no figure appears on the Schools Performance Table for Harris Primary Academy Philip Lane. But the new measurement shows the number of the academy’s pupils reaching Level 4 in 2013 was 69%.

An Ofsted monitoring report after Harris took over said the chain was offering strong support. But so was the LA before Harris took over. And, at last, Ofsted noticed the pupils’ exceptional art work.

The school should be congratulated for achieving a Good Ofsted judgement. But it is misleading to say the outcome was solely due to academy conversion and sponsorship by Harris. The “foundations of improvement” were already there and staff built upon them.

ADDENDUM: During the last few weeks extracts from unpublished Ofsted reports have found their way into the media and politicians have revealed Ofsted judgements before official publication. Today the Times and the website of Harris Academy Philip Lane have both published extracts from the unpublished Ofsted and the academy has a link to the full report. Ofsted has said premature publication of a report before it appears on Ofsted’s website could be a breach of copyright. Perhaps it’s time for Ofsted to act when schools, politicians or the media abuse the privilege of seeing draft reports before official publication.

*behind paywall but see extract on Schools Improvement Net).

Downhills’ Ofsted reports can be downloaded here. Monitoring inspection for Harris Academy Philip Lane can be downloaded here.
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Chris Manners's picture
Tue, 24/06/2014 - 17:22

Watch Ofsted hunt down the leakers like tigers.

Or rather don't. Watch its boss not give two hoots and swan off to make speeches about fining bad parents instead.

He's a disgrace.

agov's picture
Wed, 25/06/2014 - 10:08

Quite right.

News reaches me that Ofsted inspectors have recently taken to threatening schools that Ofsted will be taking seriously any breach of the requirement not to reveal Ofsted judgements until reports are officially published. Wonder if that will apply to one of Gove's academy darlings.

Chris Manners's picture
Wed, 25/06/2014 - 23:08

I want to do the equivalent of retweeting that comment.

Well said.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 26/06/2014 - 06:39

Breaching Ofsted copyright should be taken seriously. Ofsted releases reports to schools as drafts. This allows schools to point out if there are any errors before publication. These drafts are not the final report.

Yet these drafts find their way into the public domain. It allows the media, politicians etc to cherry pick comments which divert attention from other remarks not noticed until official publication (by which time the earlier impressions have stuck).

Ofsted could make it less easy for politicians to do this by NOT releasing Ofsted judgements to anyone but the schools. Schools should be under strict instructions not to share the results with any third party until official publication. And papers which publish remarks from unpublished Ofsted reports should... I'm actually at a loss about what sanctions could be applied - if News of the World could get away with phone-hacking for years then papers aren't going to bother much about copyright infringements.

Janet Lallysmith's picture
Fri, 27/06/2014 - 12:40

My children still go to this school and just on the Ofsted copyright issue...

The school was inspected on 9 and 10 June 2014. Only the SLT were informed of the draft official outcome because of fears of leaks to the media. A full report was given to the school leaders/verified and confirmed by 23 June, when the teaching staff were officially told, the report went live on the school's website and all the children came home carrying a copy. Given the previous caution, I can't believe that this would have been done without the official nod from Ofsted.

It is indeed pretty record turn around from inspection to being rubber stamped for an Ofsted report, although FOI requests during the campaign showed that the communications between the DfE, Ofsted and Michael Gove are pretty intimate.

The Times printed its article the next day, when the information was already in the public domain.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 27/06/2014 - 15:00

Marigold - thanks for that information. The report's just appeared on Ofsted's website with official publication date of 27 June 2014. Publication in the media before today would technically be breach of copyright.

As I said above, it's thanks to work which was going on before Harris took over that the school has had a Good Ofsted judgement. Someone (Ofsted? The DfE? Harris? The school?) must have sent a copy to the Times which then claimed it "vindicated" Gove's decision to hand the school over to Harris.

I don't suppose they would be so keen to pre-empt official publication if the school had been judged less than Good. They would probably hope that no-one outside the school, parents and Ofsted would notice.

… and trade unions united in denunciation. But Downhills has been transformed. Last week, Ofsted judged it to be comprehensively improved – with outstanding leadership and delighted …

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