Labour MP Kevan Jones has criticised the Labour council in Durham
for being slow to act after he raised concerns about two Durham community secondary schools in 2013.
But the two schools had been judged Outstanding in 2011 and this restricted the action the Local Authority (LA) could take.
Fyndoune Community College was judged Outstanding in 2011 on all counts (old criteria). Durham Community Business College (DCBC) was also Outstanding in 2011 except for attainment (good). Both schools were in a Federation and the head, Anne Lakey, and chair of governors, David Bell, were the same for both schools. They were also named as head and chair on both Ofsted reports although the head, Anne Lakey, is awaiting retrial on charges of sexual assault. She had been suspended
at Christmas 2012 when the allegations were first made.
Inspectors said Durham had ‘acted rapidly’ when serious allegations at senior leadership level were made but had been slow to react to tackle issues relating to teaching, learning and weak leadership. DCBC was described as being in 'turmoil'. Governance in both schools had been Outstanding in 2011 but was judged Inadequate in November 2014.
So how far is Durham to blame? Was the Council slow to act?
DCBC and Fyndoune were both Outstanding schools and LA power to intervene in community schools is much reduced unless the schools are judged Requires Improvement or Inadequate. LAs can intervene if results fall - results at DCBC had fallen year-on-year since 2011. But GCSE results at Fyndoune had reached a high of 85% in 2012 before falling back to 75% in 2013.
LAs can only 'secure' strong governance in a school if they aren't providing a good enough education, according to Department for Education guidance
. But DCBC and Fyndoune had been judged Outstanding.
The first formal course of action for LAs listed in the DfE guidance is to issue a warning notice but LAs 'must draw on a suitable range of quantitative and qualitative information to form a complete picture of a school’s performance' before doing so. And DCBC and Fyndoune were Outstanding.
So, the LA intervened quickly when serious allegations about senior leadership were raised but was stymied by DfE guidance from intervening for any other reason because both schools had been judged Outstanding.
Ofsted reports can be downloaded here
13.54 14 November 2014. The above thread has been amended. 'The first course of action for LAs is to issue a warning notice' has been changed to make it clear this refers to formal action listed in DfE guidance. There are, of course, informal strategies which LAs can take as johnebolt says in comments below. These strategies are outlined in a Durham document
dated October 2012 which said they might cease when changes to school funding coming into effect in 2013/14 reduced funding to the LA.