Robert Bruce Middle School, Kempston, Bedford, is consulting on whether to become an academy. A letter to parents
says the consultation runs until Friday 11 September when, according to the letter, governors will decide whether to go ahead with plans to become a sponsored academy with the Challenger Multi-Academy Trust.
But it appears the move is a foregone conclusion
. As early as March, Bedfordshire On Sunday
reported that Robert Bruce was being ‘made to become [an] academy’ with Challenger. The Department of Education’s database of school details, Edubase
, says it’s proposed to close Robert Bruce on 31 December 2015. And Challenger Multi-Academy Trust says Robert Bruce Middle School is already one of its academies
along with Lancot School which will join Challenger at the end of the month.
(The pictures of the two schools on Challenger's website look remarkably the same.)
The move was supported by the school’s then head, Karen Parker, and local MP Richard Fuller who said the school had longstanding problems which ‘Bedford Borough Council had failed to address’.
But when Ofsted arrived, also in March, and upgraded Robert Bruce from Inadequate to Requires Improvement, inspectors said the local authority’s actions were ‘contributing to the school’s capacity for continued improvement’.
Matters have deteriorated at the school since the March inspection. The head was suspended in early June following accusations of exam malpractice which the Standards and Testing Agency (STA) has investigated. STA confirmed exam maladministration had taken place and the Key Stage 2 test results have been scrapped
. Ofsted monitoring showed five members of staff had resigned, three teachers and two members of support staff were on long-term leave of absence, the central record of recruitment checks were not ‘compliant with current regulations’ and the school’s action plan was of poor quality. The LA had appointed an interim head and arranged for local support.
Ofsted, however, is clear: ‘The school is to become a sponsored academy.’
Yet the Governors tell parents they will make a decision whether to go ahead and join Challenger after the consultation ends. But the decision has already been made.
It’s not the first time that such consultations appear to be nothing more than paper exercises. And even this pseudo local democracy will disappear if the Education and Adoption Bill is passed.
: The risk assessment
for Bedford Free School said the establishment of the free school could pose a moderate to high risk to Robert Bruce. The school, along with three other schools, could ‘potentially’ experience a ‘significant loss of pupils’. Most of these four had ‘existing surplus capacity and were undersubscribed for entry in 2011/12’. Migration of ‘even a small number of pupils’ to Bedford Free School might ‘exacerbate the existing surplus and attainment issues and threaten the long-term viability of these schools’, the impact assessment said. Despite this, Bedford Free School opened in September 2012. It was judged to Require Improvement
in February 2014. Ofsted has not yet undertaken monitoring visits.
: It appears Challenger Multi-Academy Trust writes its blogs
in Latin. The texts were beyond my O level Latin (exam never taken). Google translator wasn’t much help – a few English words such as performance, poverty and pain accompanied by ‘the laughter of marketers’. Perhaps it’s a joke – or the site’s been hacked by a prankster.