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