When a local authority school is judged inadequate, a directive academy order (DAO) is issued. This means the school must close and re-open as a sponsor-led academy.
The process of academization can be prolonged, Chief HMI Amanda Spielman admits in the annual Ofsted report. In August 2019, there were 51 schools with a DAO which hadn’t converted after 18 months and 39 still open as LA schools after 24 months.
In such circumstances, Ofsted may decide to re-inspect the school. If the school has improved and is no longer inadequate, Regional School Inspectors have the discretion to rescind the DAO.
But Lord Agnew, schools minister with responsibility for academies, told* Lloyd Russell-Moyle, the Labour MP for Brighton Kemptown and Peacehaven:
‘Revoking an academy order only happens in exceptional circumstances…Revocation on the basis of an Ofsted inspection would only be considered if a school is re-inspected by Ofsted and moves out of the “inadequate” rating towards “Good”’.
But if Ofsted doesn’t re-inspect a school, how can we know whether it’s improving? Agnew added it was up to Ofsted to decide whether to return or not.
It is only fair that schools should be given time to improve before drastic action is taken. This doesn’t just apply to LA schools under an academy order. It can also apply to academies judged inadequate.
The Department for Education’s policy towards issuing letters threatening to stop funding inadequate academies is inconsistent. Sometimes they appear within days of an inadequate judgement; sometimes there’s a lapse of time. In one case, the delay was over a year. Martin Post, then RSC for North West London and South Central, agreed with the CEO of Cuckoo Hall Academy Trust to monitor Cuckoo Hall for one academic year after the flagship school was judged inadequate. After a year, Post still remained concerned and it was then, and only then, that he issued a ‘minded to terminate’ letter.
Perhaps all schools should be given time to improve before either being slapped with an academy order or, in the case of academies, a letter warning them their funding will be stopped. It would save a great deal of heartache and money if schools were allowed to improve before the nuclear button is pressed.
*See Warwick Mansell’s blog for full details (£).
Schools Week summarises other findings from Ofsted’s annual report here.