Academy propaganda - closing academies for ‘fresh start’ likely to reduce number of inadequate academies

Janet Downs's picture

Baxter College, Kidderminster, opened in February 2017.  That’s what the Department for Education database says.  School Performance Tables also say it’s a new academy starting this year.    

Both records show no data about inspections for Baxter College.  It hasn’t been inspected yet because it’s a new academy.    

This is odd because Baxter College originally converted to academy status in September 2012.  It was a new academy over four years ago.

Why, then, has an academy which was new in 2012 been reborn again in 2017?

The answer is on the DfE record.   Baxter College, newly opened in 2012, was closed in 2017 for a ‘fresh start’.

Baxter College was judged good in March 2012 when a local authority maintained school. It rapidly converted to academy status.  But when Ofsted visited in 2015, the academy was placed in special measures.   

Ofsted monitoring in May 2016 showed ‘Commissioned support from the local authority is proving helpful’.  As an academy, however, Baxter College couldn’t revert to being under LA stewardship even if it wished to do so.  The academy’s trustees decided to join the Severn Academies Educational Trust (SAET).   £80k was given to SAET when Baxter College transferred in January 2017*.

Closing an academy and reopening it for a fresh start means any inadequate judgement is likely to disappear from DfE statistics.  This would deflate the number of inadequate academies in the same way as carrying forward outstanding judgements from LA-maintained predecessor schools to converter academies inflates the number of outstanding academies.

This is statistical jiggery-pokery.  It also raises the question of how many failing academies are being closed for a fresh start thereby allowing any poor Ofsted ratings for academies to be rubbed out.    

Baxter College isn’t a one-off.  Callington Community College, Cornwall, closed in September 2016 for the same reason.  It, too, had been judged inadequate as an academy.  Ofsted monitored Callington CC in June 2017 and noted the ‘predecessor’ school had been placed in special measures.  But does the inadequate rating for the predecessor school still appear in DfE statistics?

A variation of ‘fresh start’ is ‘change in status’.  This is the reason given for Ely College opening in September 2016.   Its record  says it has no Ofsted data.  The Ofsted link shows an undated academy conversion letter which names the predecessor school as Ely College URN 137779.  But Ely College URN 137779 was already a converter academy – it joined CfBT in January 2012.  

Ely College was judged inadequate on 2015.  The academy was transferred to Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust (CMAT) in September 2016 when the change of status took place.  CMAT received £686k in academy transfer fees for Ely College*.

It appears the DfE is allowing academies to convert to, er, academies.  And, like ‘fresh start’, it allows inadequate ratings for academies to be wiped from DfE data.

If this is happening, it is unacceptable.

*Figures from Academies that have moved trust and grant funding provided (Excel)




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Christine M Dickinson's picture
Thu, 16/11/2017 - 13:28

Is also happening at Folkestone Academy in Kent which after a "coasting" verdict is changing from Folkestone Academy Trust CEO Roger De Haan, to Turner Schools Trust CEO Dr Jo Saxton. Turner Schools Trust came into being on 1st January 2017 and will already, after this conversion, have 2 secondaries and 3 primaries. two of the primaries are ex Lilac Sky and one secondary ex council.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 16/11/2017 - 14:28

Thanks - according to Turner's website it has only two schools whatever the hype surrounding the trust.  Folkestone Academy, listed as one of its academies, is actually a 'partner' school (but may, of course, officially join Turner at some point).  It was judged good in November 2015, upgraded from requires improvement. The Turner Free School, also listed, isn't expected to open until September 2018.

According to the DfE database, Turner's  Morehall Primary, which became a sponsored academy as 'new provision' on 1 April 2014, closed on 3 December 2016 for a 'fresh start'.    This is doubly odd - not just because of the 'fresh start' but the claim that in April 2014 it was 'new provision'.   The DfE database says Morehall Primary School, an LA maintained school at the same address judged to require improvement in March 2013, closed at the end of March 2014 to become an academy.  So it wasn't 'new provision' in 2014 - it was a community school which became a sponsored academy with the ill-fated Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust (although nothing on the DfE database shows that).

Martello Grove, another ex- LSSAT primary, is recorded on School Performance Tables as having joined Turner after the start of the 2016/17 academic year.  But the DfE database says it was 'new provision' on 1 September 2015 and the date and reason for closure is 'not recorded'.  Also according to the database, Martello Grove  has been with Turner since September 2015 - no mention of the defunct LSSAT.

The saga above shows how difficult it is to keep track of academies which keep changing hands.  All records of previous trusts seem to be airbrushed from records.   And this is all made worse by closing and reopening academies for fresh start, change of status or 'not recorded'.



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