The school’s website
calls itself an academy. Wikipedia
says it’s an academy. And the Mail
called it an academy when it reported the head’s decision to send children home because of uniform infringements.
But Hanson School isn’t an academy. It’s a Foundation school in Bradford and it’s just been placed in Special Measures
. Incredibly, inspectors found Hanson School has been in the process of academy conversion for four years but was still waiting for a ‘confirmation date’.
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan often speaks of ‘council-run’ schools which ‘languish’ in Special Measures for 18 months. This implies it is only then that local authorities stir themselves to address issues at these schools. Leave aside the argument that the period of languish may actually be a time of action – the NAO, remember, said informal measures such as local support were more effective than academy conversion – four years seems rather a long time for a school to languish in academy conversion limbo.
Uncertainty is likely to have a negative influence on any school caught up in such a delay.
For example, Ofsted monitoring
of Ryhall CofE Primary School in Rutland (then Inadequate) in February 2014, said ‘indecision’ about academy conversion caused by ‘weak communication’ between the Department for Education, the diocese, local authority and Interim Executive Board was ‘beginning to cause some anxiety amongst staff and is delaying plans to form a new governing body.’ As it happened, Ryhall School was judged Good before it became an academy although this didn’t stop eventual conversion in October 2015.
What, then, has caused the delay at Hanson? The proposed sponsor is the School Partnership Trust Academies (SPTA). In February 2015 the DfE sent SPTA pre-warning letters
expressing concerns about performance at two of its academies. In March 2014 the Public Accounts Committee raised concerns about payments made over two years by SPTA for legal services to a firm of solicitors where an SPTA director was a partner. Margaret Hodge, PAC chair, said such related-party transactions were ‘wrong’
. And in November 2013 SPTA caused controversy when it advertised for unqualified maths teachers – this, SPTA later claimed, had been a mistake
But these three incidents post-date the decision to convert Hanson to an academy with SPTA as sponsor. Ofsted noted in February 2013 that Hanson (then judged Requires Improvement) had been waiting two years for its confirmation date to become an academy with SPTA.
This two year engagement has now extended to four years. It’s perhaps relevant to ask what is preventing the groom from actually reaching the Altar and why the matchmaker, the DfE, hasn’t taken steps to speed up the marriage or abandon it. Four years of uncertainty appears to have taken its toll on Hanson School and its pupils. The hesitancy at Hanson is unacceptable.