Ark Schools risks losing academy over homophobia, harassment and SEND suspensions

The leading trust's school faced criticism over a 'culture of sanctions', unmonitored missing pupils and unrecorded bullying and prejudice

The leading trust's school faced criticism over a 'culture of sanctions', unmonitored missing pupils and unrecorded bullying and prejudice

27 May 2022, 11:58

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Ark Schools could be stripped of a Birmingham academy where inspectors found widespread homophobia, “frequent” sexual harassment and rising suspensions of pupils with special educational needs and disabilities.

The inspectorate also criticised a “culture of sanctions” and heavy use of suspensions and alternative provision at all-through Ark Kings Academy. It said pupils with special educational needs and disabilities were more likely to be suspended, and “do not have their needs met”.

A termination warning notice issued by Andrew Warren, regional schools commissioner for the West Midlands, has been published today. Ark, one of England’s largest multi-academy trusts, also had until today to make its case to keep the school. The trust said intensive work is already underway and the school will “improve rapidly over the coming months”.

Ark Kings Academy, run by Ark since its sponsored conversion in 2012, was placed in special measures in March. It had previously been rated “good” in 2016, and Schools Week reported on its rapid increase in GCSE A* to C grades

The number of pupils achieving them jumped from 24 per cent in 2013 to 51 per cent two years later. In 2016, the school was ranked second in the country for the academic performance of disadvantaged pupils.

Homophobia ‘commonplace’ and high SEND suspensions

Inspectors praised the school’s primary phase, which merged with the secondary in 2017. But it said secondary pupils “do not feel safe” and leaders and those responsible for governance had not identified the secondary’s failings quickly enough.

Despite learning about relationships, sex and health education, older pupils “feel that they have to tolerate the frequent sexual harassment towards them”.

“Bullying, derogatory language and homophobic behaviours are commonplace.” Pupils lack confidence staff will support them when they raise concerns, and high levels of bullying and prejudiced behaviour are “not recorded”.

Ofsted voiced particular alarm over the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pupils, saying they experienced “repeated name-calling and prejudiced behaviour”.

Meanwhile secondary pupils with SEND do not achieve well as they lack necessary support in lessons. “They are more likely to receive sanctions than their peers. The number of suspensions for pupils with SEND is high and increasing.”

Staff not on top of safety or missing pupils

Ofsted said there is “not a culture of safeguarding” at secondary level, with teachers “not aware” of issues pupils face in or outside school and not taking responsibility for reporting concerns. Leaders have also “not been diligent in identifying risks”.

Inspectors urged leadership to review behaviour management to cut the use of suspensions and alternative provision, with many pupils receiving “repeated sanctions”. Detentions, suspensions and AP are used “extensively”, even though leaders cannot demonstrate the impact of using detentions and suspensions.

There is a “culture of sanctions”, and good behaviour not recognised.

“Too many” pupils are also truant from lessons, and leaders do not routintely or systematically monitor attendance of pupils educated off site – meaning “too many pupils are missing education, and leaders do not know this”.

‘Disappointed’ Ark promises rapid improvement

An Ark spokesperson said it was “very disappointed” but fully accepted Ofsted’s findings, and had already started addressing issues before the visit.

“That work has gathered pace since, and we are very confident the school will improve rapidly over the coming months.”

The trust has also appointed a new executive principal and secondary principal.

“The school will have the support and resources of our large, successful network to ensure all pupils experience a consistently high-quality education.” 

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  1. Majda Jamila

    So Ofsted should have not replaced those Birmingham schools with ark academies. Now they can agree with parents andcthe general public that the trojan horse was galopping off in the wrong direction.