67 schools in academy pipeline without a sponsor for a year or more

Janet Downs's picture

19 still waiting for named sponsor after two years

It’s one of the Government’s proudest boasts – when schools fail it will take immediate action.  This usually means becoming a sponsored academy.  

But 67 schools approved to become sponsored academies in 2016 and 2017 have no named sponsor.  They include The King’s CofE School in Wolverhampton which I wrote about yesterday.

Twelve schools have been waiting for a sponsor since April 2016

Twelve of these schools, labelled ‘zombie’ or ‘orphan’ academies, were approved for academy sponsorship over two years ago.  They include:

William Allit School – a Derbyshire secondary community school.  It was upgraded to requires Improvement in July 2016.  Monitoring in February 2017 said the ‘planned transfer to a local multi-academy trust (MAT) had been terminated’.  The Department for Education (DfE) said it’s ‘pursuing other potential sponsors’.  Without much success, it appears.

Fearns Community Sports College –a Lancashire secondary community school.  Fearns was judged inadequate in April 2014 and May 2016.   Monitoring in December 2017 found pupil numbers had ‘dropped considerably’.  At the same time, ‘no progress’ had been made in finding a sponsor.   

Inspectors said the school was ‘broken’ in May 2016 and ‘proved very difficult to fix.’  Nevertheless, monitoring showed Fearns was ‘led by a passionate team whose commitment to the pupils of this school is second to none’ but ‘obstacles’ remained especially ‘uncertainty about its future’.   This was depressing staff morale.

Inspectors found that Fearns accepted pupils removed from other local schools.  This altruism meant a high proportion entered Fearns outside normal times.  Over 15% of Year 11 pupils had arrived during Key stage 4, inspectors wrote.  Fearns’ efforts with these challenging pupils were a ‘credit’ to the staff.

The local authority (LA) was now working ‘more effectively’ with Fearns and had provided ‘substantial support’.  Both Fearns and the LA were addressing ‘abiding uncertainty’ via links with a MAT which has offered to support the school.  If, these links don’t result in sponsorship, it may be time to rescind the academy order so Fearns can move forward without insecurity dogging the school.

Rose Hill Primary School, Oxford.  Upgraded from inadequate to requires improvement in October 2017.  Leadership and management, personal development behaviour and welfare, and early years provision were all judged good.  Inspectors said delays in finding a sponsor were a ‘source of frustration’.  Members of the interim executive board and senior leaders had ‘worked well together…and ensure “business as usual”.’  The LA, Oxford Teaching School Alliance and River Learning Trust have provided effective support.

Schools such as the four mentioned above, locked in limbo for more than twelve months, are being hampered by lack of progress towards a solution mandated by the DfE.    But this enforced solution appears to be less effective than leaving schools with their LAs.  Research published today ‘clearly demonstrates the excellent track records councils have in turning round failing schools’.  Schools remaining under LA stewardship were more likely to be good or outstanding than those that became sponsored academies.

It appears leaving schools with their LA improves schools more effectively than becoming a sponsored academy.  And it's likely to be much cheaper.

NOTE: List of sponsored academies in the pipeline with date when academy approval was given can be downloaded here

More on this subject:

'We're not struggling to find sponsors,'  insists Nick Gibb (TES)

The slow speed of emergency academisation (Schools Week)

Tory leader of large LA warns  of  shortage of academy sponsors (£ Education Uncovered)

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