Departing regional schools commissioner Pank Patel to join inadequate-rated George Salter Academy

Departing regional schools commissioner Pank Patel to join inadequate-rated George Salter Academy

A regional schools commissioner has quit to become the new headteacher of an academy that was rated Ofsted inadequate last month, Schools Week can reveal.

Pank Patel, regional schools commissioner for the West Midlands, will join the George Salter academy, in West Bromwich, in September.

The academy, run by one of the country’s largest academy trusts Ormiston, was rated as inadequate last month over safeguarding concerns. Inspectors said staff were unaware of procedures to ensure pupils were safe from the risk of extremism and radicalisation.

Just two years earlier the school was rated good.

A spokesperson for the school said Patel was an “outstanding” headteacher. “Additionally, as someone who is from this area, we are proud and privileged to be welcoming Mr Patel to our school and we look forward to working with him.”

The hunt is now on to find a replacement for Patel, with a recruitment advert offering a salary of up to £140,000.

Patel was previously head of Wood Green academy in Wednesbury, near Birmingham, before taking the first commissioner role for the West Midlands in September 2014.

He said it had been an “honour” to serve in the role, but he “missed being a head” and looked forward to “getting back into a local school”.

Commenting on Patel’s departure, Sir David Carter, the national schools commissioner, said: “I have always taken the view that the RSC should come from the system whenever possible and then return to it, leading schools and trusts using their invaluable experience of working across a region to raise standards for more children.”

Patel’s time as a commissioner, during which he monitored the performance of academies in the region, has not always been smooth.

In April 2015 he caused controversy by granting permission for neighbouring academies in Redditch, Worcestershire, to convert into two-tier schools, despite concerns that it would “decimate” the town’s education system and threaten other local schools.

He was also silent after financial impropriety was uncovered at Perry Beeches, a multi-academy trust with several schools on his patch.

Negotiations with other sponsors to take over schools in the trust have been fraught and sources questioned whether Patel showed adequate leadership.

Pank is the second RSC to resign. He follows Paul Smith who left his role as RSC for Lancashire and West Yorkshire less than 12 months in to become chief exeuctive of the Future Academies trust, founded and run by junior schools minister Lord Nash.

The mounting workload on regional commissioners may be one reason why more civil servants are being appointed to work alongside them.

Schools Week revealed in February that administrative budgets for their offices had already inflated by about £800,000 in one year.

Now deputy directors are being recruited to lead a team within each of the eight RSC offices to support their work as the government expands the academies programme.

Maria Dawes, head of school effectiveness at Babcock Education, will take up one of the deputy positions in the middle of June.

A Department for Education spokesperson said “strong leaders” were being recruited from across the sector to help support RSCs implement new measures to tackle failing and coasting schools.

Applications for the new RSC for the West Midlands close on June 3, according to the civil service jobs website.