Three days ago Henry Stewart showed how Lord Nash misled peers by muddling the definition of ‘coasting’ schools. That wasn’t the only misleading statement in the noble Lord’s speech. Lord Nash said when he became sponsor of Pimlico Academy in September 2008 the predecessor Pimlico School was ‘failing on almost every count’. He praised Pimlico Academy’s principal and team for taking the academy to Outstanding in ‘just over two years’. It’s true Pimlico School was once in special measures. That was in 2006.
But a full inspection in July 2008 before the school became an academy upgraded Pimlico School to Satisfactory with the Sixth Form rated Good. Inspectors wrote: ‘The headteacher [Jo Shuter], in post since January 2007, has successfully created an environment where the achievement of every student is important to staff…All of this has been achieved despite a period of significant turbulence, including high staff turnover’. In summary, inspectors said Pimlico School’s improvement plan together with ‘many recent improvements’ demonstrated ‘the school’s satisfactory capacity to improve further’.
This doesn’t confirm Lord Nash’s statement that Pimlico School was ‘failing on almost every count’ when his academy trust Future took over. Pimlico Academy’s Outstanding report (December 2010) congratulated the then principal, Jerry Collins, his team and Future for overcoming ‘numerous challenges of high staff turn-over, poor student behaviour and low educational standards…within a relatively short time.’ High praise – but if the earlier Ofsted is to be believed then these problems were being solved before academization.
In July 2008 inspectors said staffing at Pimlico School was ‘currently stable’ and morale was high. Early monitoring of Pimlico Academy in December 2009 said most of the staff from the predecessor school had transferred to the academy. This doesn’t suggest staff turbulence in the academy. Similarly, the ‘low educational standards’ appear to have been addressed before the school joined Future. Inspectors in July 2008 said it was ‘no longer the case’ that standards were ‘exceptionally low’. Pupil achievement had improved since 2006 and was ‘satisfactory overall’ although ‘well below national averages’. 36% of the 2008 GCSE cohort reached the benchmark 5+ GCSEs (or equivalent) A*-C including Maths and English. The then national average was 47%.
That’s not to say results didn’t improve dramatically at Pimlico Academy. By 2010, 59% reached the benchmark rising to a high of 69% in 2013. Results slipped to 63% in 2014 but so did the national average following changes to league tables*. Future built on Pimlico School’s ‘satisfactory capacity to improve’ to make Pimlico Academy Outstanding. That is achievement enough without rewriting history by claiming Pimlico School was failing across the board.
NOTES: *The national average for pupils reaching the benchmark fell from 60.6% in 2013 to 56.6% a year later. This was due to changes in how league tables were compiled in 2014. Ofsted reports for Pimlico Academy are downloadable here. Reports for Pimlico School are not available on Ofsted’s website but Ofsted will respond quickly to any request for all Ofsted reports for Pimlico School between 2006 when it was judged Inadequate and July 2008 when it was upgraded to Satisfactory. I’d like to thank Ofsted for its speedy response. Other examples of history being rewritten are here, here, and here.