Yarmouth primary academy run by trust linked to schools minister put in special measures

Janet Downs's picture

Great Yarmouth Primary Academy (GYPA), run by Inspiration Trust which is linked to schools minister Lord Agnew, has been placed in special measures.

GYPA has often been cited as an example for other schools to follow.  As long ago as 2012, the then education secretary Michael Gove praised the planned extended school day which would come into force when Greenacre Primary School became GYPA with Inspiration Trust. 

Two years later, another education secretary, Liz Truss, tweeted that GYPA was a ‘brilliant example’ when it was judged good.  She linked to a Daily Mail article saying GYPA had ‘gone from failure to earning top marks from inspectors’.

That wasn’t true.  The predecessor Greenacre Primary School had been judged satisfactory in 2011, its last Ofsted* before being taken over by Inspiration in September 2012.  However, this upgrade from inadequate happening before academization appears to have been airbrushed from history*.  Inspiration Trust accounts** also claim GYPA’s predecessor school was inadequate.   

In 2017, Inspiration announced it was developing a ‘knowledge-led curriculum’.  Inspectors found this was ‘coherent, well planned and based on worthy intent to develop all pupils’ vocabulary and knowledge systematically.’

But this worthy intent to develop vocabulary and knowledge doesn’t seem to have been put into practice.  The newly introduced mathematics curriculum is not well understood by teachers’, inspectors wrote.  Worse, inspectors said ‘teachers read from a given script’.  When they didn’t understand any of the scripted tasks, they passed them over.

Too often, teachers are ill-equipped to deliver the curriculum effectively. Their subject knowledge is not secure.’

Some teachers are yet to be convinced of the value of this curriculum. Teachers worry that the most able pupils are not sufficiently challenged.’

Particularly damning for a school linked to a minister who regularly extolls phonics, inspectors found ‘the teaching of phonics is not effective’.

Pupils do not have a secure knowledge of phonics to help them read successfully. This impairs their ability to access the curriculum.’

It wasn’t just the implementation of the curriculum that Ofsted slated: weak management of pupils’ behaviour, high frequency of fixed-term exclusions, attainment ‘unacceptably low’, ineffective support for SEND pupils…

Inspiration Trust has blamed Ofsted for GYPA’s inadequate rating, Schools Week reports.  A spokesperson accused inspectors of having made up their minds before walking through the door. ‘We have sadly also seen inspectors who don’t understand the data,’ the spokesperson said.

But the data comes from the Department for Education.  School Performance Tables show pupil progress at GYPA was well below average in reading, writing and maths.  They also show that the percentage of pupils meeting the expected standard in these three subjects dropped from 78% in 2016 to 41% in 2017 before rising to 50% in 2018.

Inspiration says it ‘will continue to fight this seriously flawed report through Ofsted’s internal procedures’.


UPDATE 9 March 14.54:  Inspiration Trust has told Warwick Mansell that the statement in its 2017/18accounts saying GYPA's predecessor school was rated inadequate in its last inspection before being taken over by Inspiration was an error.  The predecessor school had been 'inadvertently listed' as inadequate.  Future accounts would show the correct inspection judgement (satisfactory) for the predecessor school but the 2017/18 accounts could not be amended.  


*Inspection reports for Greenacre Primary School are no longer on Ofsted’s website.

**Available from Companies House

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

Be notified by email of each new post.


James Goffin's picture
Sat, 02/03/2019 - 11:47

The Trust strongly disputes the report.
Inspiration Trust chief executive Dame Rachel de Souza said: "This report is simply wrong. The inspection team made mistakes from the very beginning, from their joining instructions talking about a school car park that doesn't exist to claiming Key Stage 2 results hadn't improved when they went up 9% year on year. The report wholly misrepresents minutes of meetings. Most concerningly we were forced to raise a formal complaint about inspectors' attitude to safeguarding during their visit - a complaint that three months on we have had no proper reply to.
"We have tried to challenge these very clear problems directly with Ofsted but they have refused to listen, twisting the text of the report to fit their negative narrative rather than admit they got things wrong.
"As a Trust we have invested £2m in curriculum development, resources, and training, and yet the report claims the Trust does not have the capacity to improve the school.
"Key Stage 2 exam results went up 9% year on year, and Key Stage 1 assessments rose in each of reading, writing, and maths, and yet the report claims there is no evidence of improvement.
"Pupils are described as feeling safe and proud of their achievements, and yet the report claims there is very regular highly disruptive behaviour.
"We do not pretend that the school is perfect - none is. But this report does not represent the school I know, or the one seen by a former Regional Schools Commissioner adviser who reviewed it for us just days before the inspection.
"As a trust we have seen some really good Ofsted inspectors offering astute, professional challenge to schools, and it is right they keep us on our toes. We have sadly also seen inspectors who don't understand the data, and seem to walk through the doors determined to reach a particular judgement come what may.
"Our legal advice is that there is a case to argue but that court action would cost around £100,000, money we are not prepared to divert from front line teaching. Instead, we will continue to fight this seriously flawed report through Ofsted's internal procedures - and focus the Trust's resources on helping our pupils and supporting our recently joined new principal and the dedicated staff at Great Yarmouth Primary Academy."

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 02/03/2019 - 13:33

Thank you for your reply.  I believe you are head of external affairs at Inspiration Trust.

Dame Rachel's statement, which I had already read, twice says that Key Stage 2 results went up 9% year on year.  But DfE School Performance Tables show this is not correct.  The percentage of pupils meeting the expected standard in reading, writing and maths dropped from 78% in 2016 to 41% in 2017 before rising to 50% in 2018.  There was a nine percentage points rise from a low base of 41% to 50% in 2018.  But a nine percentage points rise is not the same as a 9% rise.  And a drop from 78% to 41% can't be described as an improvement 'year on year'.

John Mountford's picture
Mon, 04/03/2019 - 22:37

Janet, I hope you will keep up the pressure on Inspiration Trust. There is a strong likelihood that the Trust, with so many uncritical friends in high places will not only " continue to fight this seriously flawed report through Ofsted’s internal procedures", but will actually be successful. After all there is much to be lost to the education marketeers if a damning report of this level of seriousness stands.

As a retired Ofsted inspector, having been trained by HMI in the first round of the Additional Inspectors initiative (1996) , I doubt that a team of no fewer than three HM Inspectors would make the kind of detailed, negative judgements in a report, as seen here, without substantial detailed evidence to back them up.

The fact that "Minutes of meetings show that trustees have asked questions about improvements in pupils’ behaviour, but leaders’ responses focus on attendance." is an excellent example of the failure of the Trust to hold the local leaders to account. On the other hand it might also indicate that Inspiration Trust is actually unable to deliver in this regard. I found it very revealing that inspectors made the following direct statement , "It is recommended that the school should not appoint newly qualified teachers." Maybe they know something about the intentions of the Trust to curtail spending in this very expensive resource area.

Worryingly, " several members of staff were absent from the school." during the inspection and also " During the inspection, five pupils were excluded for all or part of the inspection." These are the kinds of facts that the Trust will have great difficulty disputing with Ofsted if they hope to overturn this report.

As an interesting aside, the HMI mentor/trainer I worked with would not have allowed internal inconsistency in any report under her editorship. The following quotes from the GYPA report cast some doubt on internal consistency in relation to the work of the Trust. Does the statement that "The trust provides substantial (see note below not EFFECTIVE) support to the school, including for the interim principal." sit comfortably alongside the statement that " it is failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education and the persons responsible for leading, managing or governing the school are not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvement in the school." Or is this me just being pedantic??

But, wait, perhaps this swings it back in my favour after all. "The trust recognised that this is a period of vulnerability for the school and has put support in place. However, this support has come too late to sufficiently stem a decline in standards since 2016, particularly at key stage 2."
Oh and also, "Trustees recognise that outcomes for pupils are too low. They have ensured that support is provided to the school and more is planned. However, this support is not having the desired impact across the school." Inspectors cannot report on the possible future success of policy and resource developments, so in my opinion it would be wise not to allocate £100,000 to fighting this report.

Add new comment

Already a member? Click here to log in before you comment. Or register with us.