Ofsted finds “too few” schools have improved under Collaborative Academies Trust in second focused inspection

Ofsted finds "too few" schools have improved under Collaborative Academies Trust in second focused inspection

Another academy trust has been criticised for underperformance by Ofsted in the education watchdog’s second focused inspection of an academy chain.

Ofsted found that too many schools had not improved since joining the Collaborative Academies Trust (CAT), in a report released today.

Inspectors said, while showing early signs of improvement, the trust’s impact on pupils’ achievement is “inconsistent and limited”.

CAT was set up by school improvement company Edison Learning in 2012. The trust says it has deliberately taken on troubled schools where improvement “takes more than a few terms to achieve” and has made “remarkable steps forward” in a short time.

It follows Ofsted’s first focused inspection into an academy chain last month, which found Oasis Community Learning Trust had a “legacy of weak challenge”.

Inspector Alison Bradley, in a letter to CAT chief executive Kevin Crossley, said: “There is no evidence that across the trust the gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers is closing or that the needs of the more able pupils are being met.”

CAT has nine academies – five in Somerset, three in Northamptonshire and one in Essex. All but one are sponsored primary schools.

“Our schools have unlimited potential – while we don’t dispute that there is further work to be done in some areas, we believe that the right measures are in place to make the additional improvements needed.”

Seven of the eight predecessor schools had been judged as inadequate or requiring improvement in their last inspection before joining the trust.

But of the five academies that have had inspections since joining the trust, only one has improved its inspection grade.

Ofsted's inspection recommendations

Ofsted’s inspection recommendations

Inspectors found of the five academies that joined the trust pre-September 2013, only one had notable improvements in 2014. In three others outcomes at one or more assessment points declined.

Across the trust, progress in reading at Key Stage 2 improved last year, while it fell in maths.

Inspectors concluded that youngsters “do not always get off to a good enough start”.

But they said leaders have acknowledged there are a number of reasons why improvement has not been fast enough, including an original focus on support rather than challenge.

Inspectors said better systems to collect key performance indicators are now in place and there has been a shift from general to more bespoke support.

Mr Crossley, in a statement, said: “Overall the report did not highlight any areas for development or recommendations that we were not already aware of and in the process of addressing.

“When we set up our multi-academy trust in 2012 we deliberately took on troubled schools working in challenging circumstances. Therefore we knew that improvements would take time to realise.

“The success of our schools will come through challenge, encouragement and partnership, with the support of our school leaders, teachers, children, governors, parents and local communities. That all takes longer than a few terms to implement, but is more sustainable over time.

cat_logo“Every child deserves to be in a good school – and both the sponsor and the Trust have a track record of providing proven school improvement solutions for some considerable time.

“Our schools have unlimited potential – while we don’t dispute that there is further work to be done in some areas, we believe that the right measures are in place to make the additional improvements needed.”

He added he was “delighted” Ofsted recognised the trust has good knowledge of its schools, has made significant senior leadership appointments and is quick to tackle leadership weaknesses.