Four more academy trusts have been served with Financial Notices to Improve, says Academies Week
. They include Durham Free School which, according to the BBC
, failed to reach its recruitment targets. Critics have claimed that setting up this free school, together with another in the same area which also failed to attract pupils, was a waste of money.
Patricia Sowter, executive principal of Cuckoo Hall Academies Trust (CHAT) which has four free schools in Enfield, has been suspended
while investigations begin into claims of gross misconduct. The head of Cuckoo Hall Primary Academy, Sharon Ahmet, and Ms Sowter’s husband, Phil Sowter, who is a CHAT trustee, have also been suspended. The Mirror
claimed the allegations relate to concerns about exam results.
Michael Gove, ex-education secretary, has often praised Ms Sowter. He has visited Cuckoo Hall and mentioned Ms Sowter in speeches and in articles. He claimed Ms Sowter had turned Cuckoo Hall from a failing school in special measures to one which was Outstanding.
But this claim wasn’t true.
Ms Sowter arrived at Cuckoo Hall in 2002. But the school came out of special measures in 1999*. An Ofsted inspection which took place in 2001, when Mr R Allen was head, said:
“This is a very effective school. Pupils enter the school with standards well below expectations and by the end of Year 6, their standards have risen to be at least in line with those in similar schools. Teaching is good and leadership and management are very good. Pupils make good progress.”
According to Cuckoo Hall’s website
, the school was under-performing when Ms Sowter took over. But the 2002 Sat results
showed 76% reached Level 4 in English, 80% in Maths and 83% in Science. Those figures suggest Cuckoo Hall was not an under-performing school.
‘understands’ that Ofsted and the Department for Education are investigating the allegations against Ms Sowter and the two others. Perhaps they also ought to investigate how a Secretary of State came to make misleading statements about Cuckoo Hall School and why the previous head, Mr R Allen, came to be airbrushed out of the school’s history.
*See page 14 of The Annual Report of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools 1998/99
UPDATE 20 January 2015. Durham Free School is to close after Ofsted
judged it Inadequate on all four counts. This damning inspection outcome came after the schools was given a Financial Notice to Improve before Christmas (see above). Critics said the school was a waste of money from the start but the then Education Secretary, Michael Gove, told Parliament it was 'excellent value
' and would act as a 'challenger school' because, in his opinion, Durham schools were poor. His attack on Durham's schools was unfounded as Henry Stewart pointed out here