EFA takes action at high-profile Cuckoo Hall Academies Trust. But questions still remain.

Janet Downs's picture

Cuckoo Hall Academies Trust (CHAT) breached its Funding Agreement and the Independent Schools Standards, the Education Funding Agency (EFA) concluded after an investigation into whistleblowers’ accusations.

The executive principal, Patricia Sowter, often praised by ex-Education Secretary Michael Gove, her husband, Phil Sowter, a trustee, and the head of Cuckoo Hall Academy, Sharon Ahmet, had been suspended in December but an internal investigation exonerated them. All three were reinstated in early January. Andry Efthymiou , who was chair of CHAT when the three were suspended, has since been removed from her post.

But the EFA found significant problems. It has issued a damning report and a Financial Notice to Improve. CHAT’s Supplementary Funding Agreement will be terminated if it doesn’t take action to address weaknesses.

These weaknesses include:

1 Insufficient monitoring of credit card expenditure.

2 Undeclared conflicts of interest including three which related to appointments and one relating to the former Chair.

3 Some salary increases not being ‘transparent’.

4 Inaccuracies in the Single Central Register of staff. This had been changed to ‘create a false impression’ about when statutory suitability checks were received.

5 Safeguarding.

Two areas of complaint were outside the EFA’s remit. These were:

1 Accusations of malpractice in the conduct of tests.
2 Accusations that staff were bullied.

In a statement to Schools Week, CHAT said the report ‘refutes a number of unfounded allegations’. But some claims still require investigation.

The accusation alleging test malpractice has been passed to the Standards and Testing Agency.

A second unresolved issue is bullying. The Trust is responsible for investigating this, the EFA said. EFA investigators heard some evidence that CHAT’s bullying policy hadn’t been complied with although ‘some senior staff’ found senior leaders were supportive.

But can an academy trust investigate charges of bullying fairly when trustees include heads? Unless such allegations are undertaken by an independent body, there will always be a perception that investigations are unfair. Staff may tolerate bullying rather than run the risk of complaining to the Academy Trust and face the possibility of the sack.

A third unresolved question concerns changes made to Cuckoo Hall’s Single Central Register (SCR) to make it appear Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks had been received before staff started work. Ofsted inspectors in June 2014 noted gaps in documents recording safeguarding requirements but said ‘substantial improvements’ were made during the inspection.

But EFA investigators weren’t satisfied with these ‘substantial improvements.’ They found the SCR didn’t match pay roll data. This showed ‘a significant number of staff’ started work before receipt of DBS clearance including two senior staff. The EFA wrote:

‘The failure to have one [Single Central Register] is a serious breach of the Standards and the funding agreement. If a register has been created or amended so as to create a false impression of suitability checks, then that is a matter of concern.’

It's an understatement to say altering a school's Single Central Register to hide malpractice is a just a ‘matter of concern'. Further investigations need to take place to discover if records were falsified in order to deceive Ofsted and whether those responsible have been disciplined or dismissed.

Another of the EFA’s concerns was the amount spent on furniture and hospitality. This might not have been value for money, the EFA said. CHAT’s accounts for the last two academic years (downloadable here) show CHAT spent £9000 in 2012/13 and £12,000 in 2013/14 on ‘hospitality’. It's unclear why an academy trust needs to spend so much money on this.

The CHAT statement to Schools Week admits ‘some of our policies and processes have not developed’ and blames the rapid expansion of CHAT from a single academy to a multi-academy trust with five schools. CHAT admits its swift growth led to problems. One conflict of interest, for example, arose because of pressure to fill leadership posts especially when the Trust took over Enfield Heights free school from CfBT in September 2014.

This raises the question voiced by the Academies Commission: academy chains being allowed to grow too quickly. They become overstretched.

It is clear CHAT is a troubled academy chain despite the Trust’s reassurances. Investigations into alleged exam malpractice and bullying still need to take place. Questions remain over falsifying documents. CHAT has been told to sort itself out or face termination of its Funding Agreement. In the meantime, the Department for Education should pause CHAT from taking on further academies or opening free schools.

This is a companion piece to David Barry’s thread summarising local press articles concerning CHAT. It was written before the publication of the EFA’s findings and the Financial Notice to Improve.

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Guest's picture
Mon, 16/02/2015 - 17:12

Extracts for the latest (Jan 15) Section 5 Inspection Handbook

Serious weaknesses

103. A school is judged to require significant improvement where it has serious weaknesses because one or more of the key judgements is inadequate (grade 4) and/or there are important weaknesses in the provision for pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. However, normally, leaders, managers and governors have been assessed as having the capacity to secure improvement.

(Page 29)

Overall Effectiveness

Inadequate (4)

The school is likely to be inadequate if inspectors judge any of the following to be inadequate:

•the quality of the leadership in and management of the school

(Page 39)

Leadership and Management

Inadequate (4)

Leadership and management are likely to be inadequate if any of the following apply.

•The school’s arrangements for safeguarding pupils do not meet statutory requirements and give serious cause for concern, or insufficient action has been taken to remedy weaknesses following a serious incident. The school fails to identify pupils at risk of harm when it might reasonably have done so.
(Page 51)

It follows then that Cuckoo Hall should be at least Grade 4 Serious Weakness and possibly Grade 4 Special Measures

My original musings can be found here:


Which gives more potential evidence to warrant an unannounced Section 5 Inspection, and if the situation described here and the earlier thread persist then it would be extremely hard not place the academy in special measures Special Measures.

David Barry's picture
Mon, 16/02/2015 - 18:13

It is rather riveting to read the EFA report -which I have only done superficially as Janet has read it for me - Janet's own account of it and then read the response to the report by the Trust as issued, on their website to parents: Link here:-


When you read the Trust"s response it is like being in a parallel universe!

That, in itself, speaks volumes.....

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 17/02/2015 - 08:04

David - the links to CHAT's 'jotter2.files.s3.amazonnews.com...' don't work. However, CHAT's response can be downloaded from Cuckoo Hall's website.

No mention of the allegations I listed - just puff about 'excellent track record' which sidesteps the sudden dip in KS2 results at Cuckoo Hall last year (and perhaps relies on the fiction that Cuckoo Hall was in special measures, or had only just emerged from special measures, when Sowter arrived).

CHAT must be hoping parents don't read the actual report.


Guest's picture
Tue, 17/02/2015 - 09:37

It is also interesting to note that whereas HMCI was told Ofsted should not stray into school activities covered by the EFA the reverse does not appear to apply. That is to say that the EFA assessed safeguarding.

"In her letter, Morgan said she expected Ofsted’s responsibilities to remain quite distinct from those of the EFA regarding the use of public money. But Ofsted already comments on the use of pupil premium and governance. These are bound to encroach on financial matters – as are leadership and management judgements."

See more at: http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2015/01/ofsted-to-inspect-but-not-...

agov's picture
Tue, 17/02/2015 - 13:48

David Barry's link in the other thread to the local press shows a DfE statement as amusing as it is shameless -

"A spokeswoman for the department for education told the Advertiser: “Academies and free schools operate under a strict system of oversight and accountability – more robust than in council-run schools - and we have consistently demonstrated that where we find failure, we will act quickly and decisively."

A comment over there claims -

"I’m disgusted that the report wasn’t out sooner, that Mrs Ahmet and Mrs Sowter had a parents and carers meeting in which they denied the allegations which made us all believe it was just gossip and now reading the final public report we find the allegations were true after all. These people are liars and should not be caring for our children."

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 17/02/2015 - 15:11

agov - As Cuckoo Hall had been judged Outstanding, it was exempt from further inspections. If the Key Stage 2 results hadn't plummeted in 2013, then Ofsted wouldn't have inspected the school. That means the sloppy DBS checks and the faulty SCR wouldn't have come to light.

And if whistleblowers hadn't made allegations, the non-adherence to the academy's bullying policy wouldn't have been known.

The Standards and Testing Agency haven't concluded their investigation yet - it remains to be decided whether exam malpractice took place.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 17/02/2015 - 15:30

agov - A DfE spokesperson may well claim academies and free schools 'operate under a strict system of oversight' but it took a fall in results and whistleblower claims to discover weaknesses at CHAT. And no-one seems to have looked closely enough at CHAT's audited accounts to consider whether thousands spent on hospitality are an appropriate use of public money.

Many converter academies were Outstanding before conversion. These, too, are exempt from inspection unless there are concerns. This raises the question about how many Outstanding academies are similarly sloppy with DBS checks and SCR registers. Staff in LA community schools are employed by the LA not a body like an academy trust. I'm not sure whether it would be so easy for staff in LA community schools to begin work before DBS checks had been received.

David Barry's picture
Wed, 18/02/2015 - 19:12

Some years ago there was a primary school in London, I dont think it fair to identify it, but I knew one of the Governors, where it was discovered that the proper DBS checks had not been carried out when appointing staff.

Now while the case is in many ways not exactly comparable with Cuckoo Hall - the important difference was that it turned that a person had, indeed, been appointed who would have failed the check had it been carried out - the Governing Body, reflecting on the fact that they were legally responsible for safeguarding, although as they had in good faith delegated this function to the Head no one believed that any of them were personally responsible, resigned en bloc.

The Head was subsequently dismissed for Gross Misconduct: the safeguarding issue was its true only part of the reason for this, they had another issue as well. The LA carried out an enquiry into the incident and the subsequent recomendations on improvement of procedures both implemented in the LA and, I believe, taken note of elsewhere.

I think the fact the Governing Body saw fit to resign in that case does make an interesting contrast with what is going on at Cuckoo Hall.

On the fate of the Head, I am not suggesting that there is sufficient evidence in the public domain about Cuckoo Hall to justify a charge of gross miss conduct at this stage. However it is a matter of public record that the former chair of the Trust thought so. We should also note that of course being charged with gross misconduct is NOT the same as being guilty of it!

In islington there are regular strict internal audits which include safeguarding and Governors have to go on safeguarding courses. It is taken most seriously.

David Barry's picture
Wed, 18/02/2015 - 22:56

I should also say this was not all that long after what was then called the "CRB" process had been brought in, as a response to the murders at Soham. So there was a sense in which things were still being learnt.

They should have been learnt by now.

Caroline's picture
Thu, 19/02/2015 - 16:22

I think the dbs incident alone is cause for removal of the head, the falsification for ofsted purposes should cement this action. Safeguarding is one area that should never be compromised on.

I agree regarding the comments about a self governing bullying investigation. I am eagerly awaiting the sta investigation into exam malpractice but it is very telling that the year the school were moderated on their writing levelling is the year the results dropped.

I also believe that the findings should trigger another ofsted. Unusual that their JUNE inspection was not published until November.

David Barry's picture
Thu, 19/02/2015 - 18:11

The issue of falsfication of safe guarding records, no longer "alleged" but established by the EFA report to have happened is relevant in another way.

While suspension of someone while an allegation of misconduct is, in law "A neutral act" it is a sufficiently extreme measure that it requires justification. On reason for doing it is a reasonable belief that, if left in situ the suspended person might interfere with evidence. For the Board to lift the suspension they must have been satisfied that although falsification of the safe guarding records had taken place none of the three suspended people could have had anything to do with it. Otherwise lifting the suspension and allowing the individuals concerned back on to the premises could be regarded as negligent.

Of course if the three individuals are known to be completely innocent, which the Board has said they are, this might be known because the Board has established who did the falsification but for some reason has not announced this.

However as far as I can tell unless they do know who did it, letting the three suspended persons back is a high risk strategy, as if it turns out that no one can be identified in the event as having done the deed, and this turned out to be because information had gone missing, then a figure of suspicion would point at the three reinstated persons. A suspicion that would be allayed if they had the alibi of being suspended.

Its one of the reasons a suspension is a neutral act, it can be in the interests of the person suspended.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 19/02/2015 - 16:51

Caroline - it's also odd that Ofsted reports for Cuckoo Hall's predecessor school have disappeared from Ofsted's website.

However, I've noticed that many similar reports have disappeared since Ofsted migrated to GovUK. A cynic might say it was to avoid comparison between Ofsted judgements of academies and their predecessor schools especially when schools are downgraded.

Andy V's picture
Thu, 19/02/2015 - 17:13

It has always been my experience that when a school converts to academy status all previous Ofsted reports become inaccessible - even prior to the move to GOV.UK.

The reverse is true for the DFE performance tables. That is to say, a skeleton outline is provided along with a link to the previous school's data but there is nothing provided for the newly formed academy.

Guest's picture
Thu, 19/02/2015 - 18:34

I wonder how many people are aware that the general public can bring cases of teacher misconduct to the NCTL for consideration?



From all that has been said, it strikes me that the Exec Head and HT involved may well have cases to answer to the NCTL. After-all serious breaches of safeguarding triggering whistleblowing by staff must be construable as placing pupils at risk and evidence of deception in manipulating the SCR serves to compound this.

David Barry's picture
Fri, 20/02/2015 - 15:50

I have written another post about Cuckoo Hall, following on from this one of Janet's here:


David Barry's picture
Fri, 20/02/2015 - 18:10


I note that the story now has ten comments on it by nine individuals - one commented twice - all very hostile to the current Board. It most unusual for the comment feature to be used to this extent on that site. So it reflects strong feelings..

Having been a school Governor when the Governing Body had to make an unpopular decision I am aware that losing the support of the parent community causes very real problems. The way we dealt with that was by holding meetings and making sure parents were as fully briefed as possible, and being scrupulous as to the truth and being prepared to say, when required:

"really good question, you are right to ask it, unfortunately I do not know the answer"

If, as that comment says Mrs Ahmet and Mrs Sowter really did hold a meeting and convinced everyone it was all just gossip, well then, now the report is out their position will be seriously undermined through loss of trust.

agov's picture
Sat, 21/02/2015 - 10:21

David -

"If...Mrs Ahmet and Mrs Sowter really did hold a meeting and convinced everyone it was all just gossip"

Personally I would assume the local paper would not have permitted these comments if there was no meeting at all where such things were discussed.

Like you say, the comments are extremely hostile. Even in those circumstances I would generally expect at least one comment trying to offer a defence - not this time it seems.

Cuckoo in the nest's picture
Sun, 22/02/2015 - 01:19

You make some good points and ask all the questions we need answers to, but why are the DfE not listening?

When the Trust says the board voted 'unanimously' just who do they mean? A full board or just the 3 members you mention above (yes, perhaps four once the husband had been voted back). Is it true that Mr Charalambous resigned from the board in writing at the beginning of November, only to return to support the three? Why the sudden interest when the 2013 financial report shows that he only attended 2 out of the 6 possible meetings? The same report declares his interest in a company with a tie to the Trust, so perhaps he should have stood down with Andry Efthymiou (the former chair) as he had an interest? Mind you, if husbands are allowed to support wives, and parents are allowed to employ children without advertisement or interview (the deputy head at Kingfisher, just one of the two Sowter sons employed by CHAT) then it would appear that anything goes... Except this isn't a family business but a school spending taxpayers money.

The EFA saw sufficient evidence to include bullying and exam fixing in their report, but how they think that a board who had already exonerated the three of any wrongdoing (despite the damning report) would conduct a fair and independent enquiry is beyond me. Just who did conduct it, what was the scope and remit of the report, and what evidence did they consider? People who gave evidence to the EFA were not asked to contribute to the enquiry, and of course the three would deny any allegations against them.

Meanwhile, let's spare a thought for the whistleblowers who put their faith in the system and in justice. It would appear that the witch hunt has begun, with staff being asked by senior leaders, under duress, to sign a petition stating how happy they are to work there, and how distressed they are to hear the comments in the press and the actions of the former chair in speaking to parents. (What rot. It's interesting to note that during the suspensions staff weren't motivated to call for any reinstatements.) If any are brave enough to refuse to sign, they will be identified as among the 75% of staff who spoke to the DfE about experiencing or witnessing bullying, and what will then happen to them? Will the board reassure them that any grievance will be investigated fairly and impartially by the members who have clearly and publicly come out in full support of the leadership?

If there's any doubt in your mind, look at the Guardian report in 2013 (and comments) which details the mass exodus of staff and drop in exam results. This isn't the first time that allegations of bullying have come up and it won't be the last. If they had any integrity, the three would resign before any further damage is done and all the good teachers leave again. It's already started: the Head at Heron left at Christmas.

David Barry's picture
Sun, 22/02/2015 - 19:28

Cuckoo in the nest.

The anger you express may, I think, just be the start. The Board of Cuckoo Hall will now face a serious political problem. Last week has been half term. Tomorrow parents will be dropping their children off at the CHAT chain of primary schools, and then in the afternoon doing pick up. They will talk to each other. For the first time since the latest story broke.

The "Advertisers" Enfield edition will have been widely distributed and read - it came out on Wednesday and I got my hard copy on Thursday in Crouch End.

They devoted a whole page to Cuckoo Hall. The print edition has the text that is also on the internet that agov refers to above. It also has a helpful time line of events showing the whole sequence from 2010.

Their reporter on this, Ruth McKee has done an excellent job.

So parents will know that the EFA has reported that there is something terribly wrong with the set up at the school they entrust their children to.

They will also know, if, as reported there was a meeting with parents at which Patricia Sowter, CBE, and Sharon Ahmet assured them that there was nothing in any of the allegations that this was not true.

As the Board conceded in their last communications "mistakes have been made" and there is a lot of work to be done. It is difficult enough to do a school turnaround when the parents trust the Governors (been there, done that).

To try and do it when the Board have lost the trust of parents to this degree.....

There will also be teachers talking to parents.

The Board say they are united. This unity will certainly be very severely tested over the next few days. I would predict some resignations.

David Barry's picture
Mon, 23/02/2015 - 10:45

Now 21 comments on the latest local press story, all hostile.

The latest, made yesterday, Sunday, is striking for its clarity:

"When the Trust said ’today’s report refutes a number of unfounded allegations’. Was it the bullying? No. 67% of sample confirmed it. Was it the SATS? No. Paperwork sent to standards and testing agency. Was it employing your relatives to high paid posts without following proper process? No. Proved. Was it giving pay rises to your friends? No. Proved. Unfounded? I think not."

By 'Alice' of Enfield.

Cuckoo in the nest's picture
Mon, 23/02/2015 - 11:52

'The board is united'. That's precisely the problem - the board should be questioning the Sowters and holding them to account given the overwhelming weight of evidence and serious accusations against them. The board seem to think that their duty is to support the Sowters and their friends at all costs and by any means including 'getting rid' of any staff and board members who ask difficult questions.

Guest's picture
Sun, 22/02/2015 - 10:10

If the evidence is there, and the EFA report certainly appears to indicate that it is, and if former and any current staff have evidence they can draw upon and disclose then why not review the NCTL Teacher Misconduct route to investigate bringing a case. For the latter see my comment above @ 19 Feb 6.34 pm.

John Mountford's picture
Tue, 24/02/2015 - 18:19

Sorry to say, Cuckoo in the nest, it is not the Board that should be "questioning the Sowters and holding them to account given the overwhelming weight of evidence and serious accusations against them". It is the Secretary of State for Education who has responsibility for oversight of academies under the present, insane system.

Margaret Hodge, MP and Chair of the Commons Select Committee, told the world on 30 January why this is not happening - "The Department has increased the autonomy of schools and oversight bodies. It has done so without an overall strategy, leading to confusion about the roles and responsibilities of the Department, the Agency, local authorities and academy sponsors, and allowing schools to fall through gaps in the system."

Unfortunately, none of us have a fat chance of the present SoS investigating this case. This includes Parliament. How can I say this, well, here it is! At the end of the Committee's report, the Chairman had this to say , "We hope that the Department will respond to our recommendations fully in order to reduce the likelihood of further unforeseen school scandals,"

Is that it, REALLY? Is it just a matter of hoping for the best? It seems like Parliament also has no overall strategy for dealing with wayward departments. Maybe its time the SoS took responsibility for what is happening at Cuckoo Hall Academies Trust. We have to insist that things change in the interests of public accountability. At the same time as we call for this, we need to consider why the governance of education is left in the hands of politicians at all?

If there is no case to answer, all well and good. The problem is we have no way of knowing and never will while this remains an issue dealt with unchecked by self-interested parties.

The electorate needs to realise that education is not truly on the radar in the run-up to the general election, BUT, it should be. As it stands, it's just a matter of churning out sound-bites (most of which amount to lies or distortions Michael Heseltine on Question Time) or attacking the opposition. Wake up people!

David Barry's picture
Tue, 24/02/2015 - 22:23


With respect you are being a little defeatist.

The case of Cuckoo Hall has three characteristics:

1. It illustrates, yet again, the inadequacy of current structures for oversight of Academies and Free Schools. (The other big one at the moment being Durand)
It all helps to build momentum for change.

2. Its by no means over yet. The critical issue will be the report on whether SATS were rigged.

3.Its also very much in the hands of parents. If they want something done they will have to make a big noise, write to the Secretary of State in sufficient numbers, and ask the candidates for the two Enfield constituencies to stae what they would do.

If there is the will, there is lots to be done.

I fear that the unguarded reader of your post might conclude there is nothing to be done, and then they really would get away with it!

David Barry's picture
Tue, 24/02/2015 - 22:41

The Schoolweek report on the outcome of the EFA inquiry - available here


has had a comment added by "Sarah" as follows:-

"According to the EFA’s report “there is some evidence that the Trust’s policy on bullying has not been complied with. Out of 28 staff interviewed, 9 have said they were bullied and a further 10 said there had been negative behaviours towards them.”
What is for certain is that existing teaching staff will have been scouring TES over the half-term applying for jobs outside the Trust. This summer will see a mass exodus of teachers.
After such a damning report, it is impossible to imagine that any experienced teacher would apply for a job at this organisation. They will find recruitment almost impossible, whilst the current senior leadership remains in place. The Trust will become even more reliant on unqualified teachers."

Good point I thought.....

John Mountford's picture
Wed, 25/02/2015 - 00:20

David, I think you are doing a great job keeping this alive on LSN and I am suspect you may be engaged elsewhere. I am prepared to accept that some readers might interpret my response as defeatist, as you appear to have done. If this is how it comes off the page, I have done myself a grave disservice. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am incandescent with rage at what is being uncovered. It seems clearer with each new revelation that heads need to roll.

But, to put the record straight.

1 I am a fighter, hence my call to ordinary people to wake up to what is going on.

2 In my view, from the evidence provided, politicians are showing no sign of accepting responsibility for unearthing the truth here. There is, therefore, a need for local people to keep digging away until the full truth is finally uncovered.

3 It is actually the responsibility of the SoS to investigate this matter with impartiality. Everyone involved needs to turn up the heat under the SoS until she accepts this and does what her office demands.

4 It can never be accepted that public servants neglect to act in the public interest.
Parents should write to Margaret Hodge and her colleagues on the Commons Select Committee demanding they carry out an investigation into the role of the Department in the specific case of Cuckoo Hall Academy.

5 I firmly believe that it is in the public interest to challenge the present system of national education governance and I will not stop in my campaign until education is no longer used as a political football at the expense of the people.

6 There can be no question that anyone 'gets away' with without paying the price for any impropriety. To do so would be utterly inappropriate.

Finally, David, when I said, "Unfortunately, none of us have a fat chance of the present SoS investigating this case.", I was trying to goad people into much-needed action. I recognise now that it was probably a rather inept way of me saying, if she doesn't get her finger out, it is up to the people to make sure she is made to do what is required of her, before she tenders her resignation.

I wish everyone well at Cuckoo Hall. It is never easy pushing against authority, bloated with arrogant indifference. I will continue to spread news of the story as long as it takes to get to the bottom of what has been going on.

David Barry's picture
Fri, 27/02/2015 - 15:50

Now 32 comments on that press story, all hostile, but with, in some cases several comments by the same individual.

Latest examples:-

"I hear that some enterprising person sent an email to all the staff at CHAT giving them the facts and the links to the documents so that they could make up their own minds. Senior staff running round like scalded cats in their efforts to stop it. Why would you need to do that if you have nothing to hide? Surely that must ring some alarm bells?


To which came another posting in response:-

"Yes, but did you hear that staff were told to delete the email ’for the good of the children, pupils, parents and staff’!! I think what we have here is a group of senior leaders determined to keep their staff from knowing the facts. Everything in the email is available in the public domain. What are you afraid of? People seeing you for what you really are? It’s time to resign.


So there IS something stirring in Enfield...

Andy V's picture
Fri, 27/02/2015 - 16:26

Whichever metaphor one might consider appropriate (e.g. cat out of the bag or genie out the bottle) the fact is that now the email and its content has circulated within the school the effect will be long lasting. Indeed, some staff may even have forwarded it to their personal email boxes.

While one would like to hope that this event will prove to be a catalyst of change (e.g. someone being brave enough to follow-up on some of the suggests floated by 'Guest'), I have a concern that this event may also lead to incidents of workplace bullying / harassment. That said, this would feedback into what Guest has been suggesting.

agov's picture
Fri, 27/02/2015 - 16:34

Didn't someone say something about the academies/'free' schools programme having to do with liberating schools from self-serving staff and being dedicated to serving the needs of children and their parents?

Certainly seems that some people in Enfield remain to be convinced.

David Barry's picture
Fri, 27/02/2015 - 17:13

John, I am really sorry to have upset you. I accept that I misunderstood you; in my defence I would remark that this gave you the opportunity to make your position clear beyond any doubt what so ever!

I suspect that partly what drove my concern was that its is clear that one of the impressions that the Board of CHAT want to convey is that there is nothing to be done.

"Move along now, nothing to see here"

The STRUCTURAL failure of the Academy system is that when something goes wrong interested parties -obviously we are all interested parties but the teachers and the parents are at the sharp end, and its the children that concern me above all else- we find ourselves in the absurd position that unless the SoS acts nothing will be done.

Given the Politics of the situation, the way in which Mrs Sowter (and dont forget the CBE) was given such highly publicised, and highly partisan support by Michael Gove, the SoS is in the position that any action they take will be politically embarrassing, so they really will have to be pressed very hard.

All the old mechanisms that were there in a community school for parents to use - start by giving your local councillors grief -just are not there. So they really will have to be prepared to put effort in to pressing the SoS for action for the sake of their children.

Andy V's picture
Fri, 27/02/2015 - 17:30

It would appear from the comments of others that some teachers have already started to take tangible action by dint of taking positions at other schools. That being the case other teachers still there should consider taking the same course of action. We all know that when a school starts to get a reputation as a bad place to be then recruitment becomes harder and harder for that school, and well all know the spiral that leads to ...

As for parents/carers perhaps they should consider following the teachers option. That is to say, vote with their feet and move their children elsewhere.

Both options carry a weighty impact for the school involved: supply teachers are expensive and not always the best, a diet of supply teachers impacts negatively on results/school performance indicators, and a falling roll hits awpu funding. It all adds up the a marked cumulative negative impact on income and the budget.

It seems to me then that all that is needed at this stage is for teacher turbulence and parental discontent to reach a tipping point.

And all of that in advance of the outcome of the investigation into the alleged rigging of SATs. So while I agree that for the government to act now would be embarrassing it is also accurate to consider that if CHAT falls deeper into the mire on SATs, finances and overall performance that has all the potential to be even worse.

Andy V's picture
Fri, 27/02/2015 - 20:36

Then you'll be hugely disappointed. My comments must be read and taken in the context of the thread and as a response to the comment you made - to which mine was a response.

To be clear, I was highlighting that notwithstanding the fact that the CHAT parents have no recourse for complaints about the school to the LA they (the parents) do have options - albeit limited: 1. Accept the situation and do nothing or 2. Try to move their child(ren) to another school. This was the case before the coalition government and its programmes of free schools and academy conversion.

I trust this clarifies matters and dispels your clear misunderstanding of what I said and why I said it.

Between the parental and teaching staff options there is the clear potential to bring about change and potentially bring down what is perceived and portrayed as being a bad situation at the school.

I am then bemused as to how/why you have so badly misconstrued what I said.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 27/02/2015 - 17:38

Andy - Unfortunately, moving children to other schools might not be possible. It's disruptive for the child and there may be no spare places in other schools.

In the circumstances, perhaps the DfE could remove the present Governing Body and replace it with an Interim Executive Board. (Does it have the power to do this in academies? It's quick enough to do it with 'failing' non academies).

Andy V's picture
Fri, 27/02/2015 - 18:03

I never suggested it was easy for children to move schools. Rather I suggested that it was an option. Neither of us has any idea what the reality is on the ground; however, a surge of applications that must go through the LA would be a very real wake up call to all involved.

If, and I stress if, the experience of other academies that have found themselves requiring new sponsors I do not think that DFE has the gumption, enthusiasm, will, determination or nous to even explore sacking the CHAT board and imposing an IEB. Indeed, the case described in an Ofsted report on an academy in Dorset - post Special Measures but also unannounced visit - conducted by 2 HMIs, paints a graver picture than that at CHAT:


David Barry's picture
Fri, 27/02/2015 - 20:23


It seems to me that your post is actually a clear statement of how an education market is supposed to work. Recall that a key justification for allowing Free Schools to open in areas where the extra places are not needed, is to provide choice, and to allow parents to vote witheir feet. So schools being squeezed through under enrolment is a "feature" and not a "bug".

Of course its disruptive for children as Janet points out, but heigh ho, thats the market for you.

David Barry's picture
Fri, 27/02/2015 - 22:42


Oh dear.

I think this is one of those cases where the tone of voice does not come across. I was not attacking your post or critiscising your views.

I would regard you as obviously correct in holding that in the general situation created by the way Academies were set up and in this particular case were the Trustees of an Academy Trust are behaving as the CHAT Trustees are, then one of the few ways for teachers to bring pressure is to move to other jobs - that is resign. I have no doubt that many, many, of them are applying for other jobs now. There is no shame at this stage if you are a teacher in leaving what must be becoming day by day a more noxious environment. Especially as more and more of your colleagues leave.

Also I would expect many parents to be looking around for other places to send their children, but they may well have significant difficulty in getting places elsewhere. What happens if, given that a significant fraction of primary schools in Enfield are CHAT schools, they cannot go elsewhere. What do they do then?

It is also true that before Free Schools and Academies a high level of staff turnover and children being taken out of the school were symptoms of a school in trouble. But the crucial difference then is there were better mechanisms to respond to these pressures.

What I felt you have accurately described is what actually happens if the only options left are market mechanisms. The sort of thing Prof. O'Hear is in favour of.

What would worry me a lot if I had children at the school is how long this could go on for and how bad it could get before the changes required happen.

Incidentally the bad situation is not only a matter of perception. It has been confirmed by the EFA report.

Caroline's picture
Mon, 02/03/2015 - 21:16

Having worked there a few years ago, I can assure you all that a mass exodus is something the chain will take in their stride. They have lost at least 7-8 excellent classroom teachers each year for at least the last 4 years. I lasted a year. Just! I've always wondered why the parents did not question this.

David Barry's picture
Mon, 02/03/2015 - 22:40

With all the adverse publicity recruiting replacement teachers may be harder than before.

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