E-Act have taken a ‘more robust’ approach to improving their academies, said Ofsted in its letter about the results of focused inspections of seven E-Act academies in December 2015.
Most of the leaders of ‘underperforming’ academies were taking ‘effective action’ to remove weakness, inspectors said, but concluded E-Act’s ‘quality of provision’ was not good enough for ‘too many pupils’.
Ten E-Act academies were removed from E-Act’s control after the last focussed inspection of the Trust’s academies. More than half of the remaining 23 were ‘not providing a good standard of education’.
Ofsted said performance in E-Act primary academies was better than in their secondary schools. This ‘disparity’ needed urgent action. Standards in E-Act’s secondary academies remained too low and the Trust’s earlier interventions had not had ‘enough impact’. Disadvantaged children, the very ones that academies were originally claimed to help when they were set up in the Labour years, do not do well. This Ofsted said, was ‘an area of serious concern’.
Nevertheless, there were ‘some signs of improvement’, Ofsted said: leaders in ‘all but one’ of E-Act’s academies were ‘making a positive difference’. Partnerships between academies to share good practice was highlighted as an ‘effective strategy’. Academy leaders with ‘good experience and knowledge’ had been recruited. The Trust had put in place ‘necessary expertise’ to address weaknesses in safeguarding and to improve provision for pupils with disabilities or special educational needs.
Inspectors praised the unification of the Trust’s priorities across their academies – staff now work to ‘consistent protocols’. While this focus on ‘common priorities’ is seen by Ofsted as good, it does rather undermine the claim that academies have freedom. In fact, Ofsted noted that E-Act was not continuing its ‘original promise of autonomy’ for its academies. Nevertheless, academy leaders were ‘overwhelmingly positive about the new direction’.
E-Act was hit with a Financial Notice to Improve in March 2013. Sir Bruce Liddington, E-Act’s CEO resigned shortly afterwards. A report by the Education Funding Agency identified a culture of extravagance at the Trust. Ofsted noted that staffing at E-Act’s head office dropped from 76 to 25 after the current CEO, David Moran, was appointed. The FIO was eventually lifted in July 2015.
ADDENDUM This is the second letter about focussed inspections sent out by Ofsted this month. The earlier one was to one of England's largest academy chains, AET. Ofsted appears to have started publishing such letters promptly after a period of postponed publication in 2015.