‘In special measures 14 years ago, Cuckoo Hall Academy was turned round dramatically by Headteacher Patricia Sowter and her team…’
Cuckoo Hall Academy website, February 2015.
14 years ago is 2001. But, as regular readers will know, Cuckoo Hall Primary School was not in special measures in 2001. It had been removed from that category in 1999
. And an Ofsted inspection in 2001 before Sowter arrived said:
‘This is a very effective school. … Teaching is good and leadership and management are very good. Pupils make good progress.’
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) censured Cuckoo Hall in October 2012 for saying the school had been in special measures in 2002. In response, the academy changed its website to read ’14 years ago’ but still made the claim that Sowter had turned the school round.
But as every year passes, ’14 years ago’ becomes nearer the time when Sowter arrived.
The ASA has again looked at Cuckoo Hall’s website and others in the Cuckoo Hall Academies Trust (CHAT) chain and ruled
the websites should be amended. CHAT has complied and all references to special measures appear to have been removed.
The claim that Cuckoo Hall was inadequate when Sowter arrived should never have been made in the first place.
It has reached mythical status that Sowter, one of Michael Gove’s ‘Magnificent Seven’ and who was awarded a CBE for services to education in 2011, turned Cuckoo Hall from special measures to Outstanding. Gove wrote in the Evening Standard
‘Patricia Sowter took over her first school, Cuckoo Hall, when it was in special measures and risked closure because it was so bad.’ But Ofsted had said Cuckoo Hall was ‘a very effective school’ before Sowter became head.
Sowter told the National College
when she arrived at Cuckoo Hall the ‘more aspiring parents had moved off because the school had failed the Ofsted’. It hadn’t.
The Academy Magazine
, Autumn 2011, published an article by Sowter. She said when she arrived:
‘I encountered low expectations for children’s learning and behaviour and consequently standards and achievement were very low.’
But Ofsted in 2001 said inspectors agreed with parents that expectations were high and children made good progress. This was borne out in the 2001 Key Stage 4 results
: 86% achieved Level 4 or above in English, 75% in Maths and 95% in Science.
Sowter told the House of Commons Bill Committee in March 2011 during debate on the Education Bill
‘My school was in special measures 10 years ago…’ But it wasn’t.
CHAT is now a troubled chain facing multiple problems including allegations of bullying and exam malpractice. It has been investigated by the Education Funding Agency which found numerous weaknesses
. Yet it was one of Michael Gove’s favourite academy chains. And he went along with the myth that Cuckoo Hall was in special measures when Sowter arrived.
But as I’ve said time and again – it wasn’t. Cuckoo Hall was an effective school before Sowter arrived and nowhere near as troubled as Sowter and others made out. Perhaps apologies are due to the previous head, Mr R Allen, and his team whose role in bringing Cuckoo Hall from special measures has been airbrushed from history.
NOTE: The 2001 Ofsted report for Cuckoo Hall Primary School is no longer available on Ofsted’s website. However, I have a copy.