Tough new measures to turn around failing schools introduced today (3 June 2015) will ‘sweep away bureaucratic and legal loopholes’ that previously prevented schools from being improved, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said.
Previously, campaigners could delay or overrule failing schools being improved by education experts by obstructing the process by which academy sponsors take over running schools. In some cases campaigners have delayed intervention by drawing out debates, refusing to provide important information and blocking vital decisions.
But the Education and Adoption Bill, being laid in Parliament today, will force councils and governing bodies to actively progress the conversion of failing schools into academies, removing roadblocks which previously left too many pupils languishing in underperforming schools.
The new rules also make clear that in the future every single school rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted will be turned into an academy.
The bill also includes plans to tackle coasting schools by putting them on a notice to improve. These schools will be given support from our team of expert headteachers, with those schools that continue to be unable to demonstrate a clear plan for improvement given new leadership.
Since 2010 the government has been able to intervene in around half of local-authority-maintained schools rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted. Today’s measures will in future allow the government to tackle 100% of these schools. The exact number of schools the new measures will benefit will depend on future Ofsted findings – but it is expected that as many as 1,000 local-authority-maintained schools could be transformed.
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said:
Today’s landmark bill will allow the best education experts to intervene in poor schools from the first day we spot failure. It will sweep away the bureaucratic and legal loopholes previously exploited by those who put ideological objections above the best interests of children.
At the heart of our commitment to delivering real social justice is our belief that every pupil deserves an excellent education and that no parent should have to be content with their child spending a single day in a failing school.
Hundreds of schools, often in disadvantaged areas, are already being turned around thanks to the help of strong academy sponsors – education experts who know exactly what they have to do to make a failing school outstanding. This bill will allow them to do their job faster and more effectively, ensuring that thousands more pupils, from across the country, get the world-class education they deserve.
Leading headteachers and education experts from across England have expressed support for the tougher measures.
Dame Rachel de Souza, CEO of the Inspiration Trust, which runs 12 schools and colleges in East Anglia, said:
We must intervene quickly and decisively so all pupils can experience the benefits of a great academy education and today’s bill will help sponsors like us to help more young people faster.
As an academy principal and now CEO of a multi-academy trust I have seen for myself the power of academies to transform young lives and turn around failing and lacklustre schools quickly. A fresh start as an academy brings hope and new energy to staff and pupils. Our Thetford and Great Yarmouth primary academies are proof that with hard work and teamwork the sky is limit for pupils’ progress and achievement.
Steve Lancashire, CEO of REAch2, which from September will sponsor 51 schools across the country, said:
Just one day in a failing school is one day too many and so any move to accelerate the process for failing schools to become academies is an important part of this and something that will be a very positive step forward for families across the country.
It will mean that no child is left behind. From next September, there will be 51 academies in the REAch2 family. We believe in school-led improvement and as a result of this our schools improve on average 3 times the rate of the national average. We welcome the opportunity that the bill will bring to engage with more schools, helping ensure that children get the first-class education they deserve.
Nick Capstick, CEO of the White Horse Federation Multi-Academy Trust, which runs 9 schools in the south-west now rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ that were previously vulnerable, said:
The real beauty of the multi-academy system is that it creates improvement which is sustained, as we have seen first-hand at the White Horse Federation, where we now have 9 ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ schools which were initially vulnerable.
The new measures are a good and measured approach to help turn around vulnerable schools, a comprehensive approach which is about sharing vision and values.
What has happened in the past is that there has been a kind of ‘us and them’ mentality, but the new measures will ensure a much more collegiate approach to turning round failing schools, allowing greater collaboration between local authorities, regional commissioners and schools.
Mark Ducker, Executive Principal of the STEP Academy Trust, which sponsors 7 schools including Applegarth Academy in Croydon, which under STEP’s leadership went from special measures to ‘good’ in 6 months, said:
Having established a family of schools that share a common mission and vision, I have seen how close partnership working can transform and improve the most vulnerable schools.
I welcome any policy which extends opportunities for schools experiencing difficulties to join strong partnerships, which will improve the life chances of more children.
Zoe Carr, CEO of WISE Academies Trust, which sponsors 3 primary schools in the Tyne and Wear region, said:
I know first-hand the amazing results you see when turning around a failing school. By providing the best leadership we managed to take a local school from special measures to ‘good’ in just 18 months, vastly improving the attainment of all pupils.
This bill will give schools up and down the country the support they need to improve. Only by working with a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ school can you raise expectations and aspirations of staff and pupils.
As an academy trust we are lucky to have a wealth of talent and experience at our fingertips and we would love to work with and offer support to more schools in our local area in the years to come.
Maura Regan OBE, CEO of Carmel Education Trust, which has 7 schools in the Tees Valley area, said:
It is vital that there as few obstacles as possible in the way between education experts and struggling schools. In my experience the academy model allows fresh and innovative approaches to reach consistently struggling schools, allowing pupils’ education to be improved at an often rapid pace.
One of our schools is in an area of high deprivation and the newly appointed headteacher and staff have embraced the innovation we have offered. The school is already showing significant improvements in enhancing the life chances of pupils.
Today’s bill is a great step in recognising that the interest of pupils must always come first and be at the heart of all that we do.
One example of intervention being unnecessarily delayed is Harris Primary Academy Philip Lane, which opened in 2012 to replace Downhills Primary School, a Tottenham school that had been failing pupils for almost a decade. Before opening as an academy, Downhills was rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted with almost 40% of pupils leaving without good grades. Campaigners put up barriers to the process through a series of repeated unsuccessful appeals and reviews, which caused unnecessary delays. Under the sponsorship of Harris the school has been judged as ‘good’ with ‘outstanding’ leadership by Ofsted; and reading, writing and maths results have soared by a quarter.
Another example of progress being unnecessarily delayed is the City of Derby Academy, which opened in place of the failing Sinfin Community School in 2013. Despite a prolonged campaign that sought to delay the school becoming an academy, the school has since come out of special measures and improved its GCSE results in the first year of its academy status. Ofsted confirmed that since becoming an academy the quality of teaching has improved, pupils are progressing more rapidly and pupil behaviour and attendance have improved.
The bill will also include previously announced new powers to transform coasting schools, the implementation of which will be consulted on in the summer.
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