History rewritten as Lord Nash shares his academy experience with the Lords

Janet Downs's picture

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.

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Phil Taylor's picture
Sat, 07/11/2015 - 21:14

This is no surprise Janet, as you and others regularly expose the lies that Nicky Morgan and the other education ministers peddle so frequently. It's very frustrating that they get away with it without any appropriate public response from the opposition - or any of the other parties, it would seem.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 08/11/2015 - 08:28

More muddle from Morgan: Martin Robinson, author of Trivium21c, highlights the contradictions between Morgan's support for the EBacc 'core' and her other comments about STEM subjects in his latest blog here.

Guest's picture
Sun, 08/11/2015 - 11:15

This was part of a recent article in the Telegraph quoting Nicky Morgan
" “We have also opened more than 300 Free Schools creating thousands of new school places, nearly half of which are in the most deprived areas of the country,” she said.
“These schools, more likely to be rated Outstanding by Ofsted than other state schools, are engines of social mobility giving all children access to the gold-standard education that can transform their lives, and over the next five years we will open 500 more.”
She cited the London Academy of Excellence and the West London Free School Primary “are showing that a world class academic education need not and should not be the preserve of the rich or lucky.”

Many of the points have been addressed before on this site but I am amazed/amused that she can cite a primary school that has been opened for only a few years and AFAIK not been inspected as an example of " world class academic education". On whose say so? The school according to some reports on Mumsnet does not appear to have a headteacher at the moment.
Also, how can opening 300 schools give ' all children access ' to a situation.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 08/11/2015 - 11:55

Thanks, Guest. If 'nearly half' of the free schools are in the 'most deprived' areas, then slightly more than half are not. And even those that are in deprived areas don't necessarily take in many disadvantaged children. Canary Wharf College (Tower Hamlets) and West London Primary Free School (Hammersmith and Fulham) take a proportion of FSM children which is far lower than the national average and their local areas.

Ofsted said the sample of free schools inspected was too small to come to a definite conclusion about their effectiveness as a group but noted their inspection profile was more-or-less the same as other schools.

The two schools she cited as apparently showing 'a world class academic education need not and should not be the preserve of the rich or lucky' shows an unwillingness to accept that thousands of other types of schools, academies and non-academies, offer Outstanding education. WLPFS has been judged Outstanding, but so have thousands of other primary schools. In fact, the proportion of primaries judged Good or better has risen while the proportion of Good or better secondaries has not. But the latter is heavily academized while the former is not. If Morgan's argument that academies are essential for improvement then this situation would surely be the other way round.

In any case, the London Academy of Excellence, a 16-19 free school, hasn't been judged Outstanding but Grade 2. Inspectors said not enough students were making the progress indicated by their high GCSE grades (a requirement for admission to LAE) when compared with similar students elsewhere. And it's been accused of ridding itself of pupils who after a year show they're not Russell-group ready. Not so 'gold standard', then.

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