Cuckoo Hall Academy threatened with funding termination

An academy criticised by Ofsted for its “stage, not age” curriculum model has been warned it could face being removed from its sponsor amid concerns over a lack of improvement.

The Department for Education has today published a letter from regional schools commissioner Martin Post to the Cuckoo Hall Academies Trust about Cuckoo Hall Academy, the trust’s flagship school in Edmonton, north London.

Post has been monitoring the school’s progress since it was placed in special measures by Ofsted in July last year, and is “concerned about the limited improvement in pupils’ outcomes at Cuckoo Hall Academy this year, and the trust’s capacity to provide the support the school requires”.

In their original report on the school, which a number of years ago was at the centre of a row over the suspensions of its headteacher and a number of other leaders, Ofsted attacked the school’s approach to the curriculum, which teaches pupils according to their ability rather than age group.

The school’s “stage, not age” model places pupils from different year groups in classes selected for ability in reading, writing and mathematics, but inspectors insisted this “does not meet pupil needs”.

The trust has now been ordered by Post to update its improvement plan for the school with “clearly measurable milestones”, and provide half-termly reports and attend meetings with officials. The school will also receive a visit from an education adviser, working for the government.

If it does not demonstrate improvement, the government will cut of the school’s funding and rebroker it to a new sponsor, Post warned.

“If at any point I am not satisfied that the improvement Cuckoo Hall Academy requires can be achieved, I will issue a termination warning notice in respect of the supplemental funding agreement for the academy.”

A spokesperson for the trust said it had agreed a “comprehensive school improvement action plan”, and “welcome the support from the regional schools commissioner to help us turn the school around”.

“We are making good progress to ensure this popular school returns to where it should be, delivering the best possible outcomes for children in our community.”

The Cuckoo Hall Academies Trust, which runs five schools in north London, found itself in hot water a number of years ago following the sudden suspension of its chief executive, one of its headteachers and a trustee.

The chair of trustees who had issued the suspensions was then removed in December 2014, prompting the trust’s director to tell Schools Week about the investigation’s “false” allegations.

The trust was then subjected to a damning report from the Education and Funding Agency in February 2015, regarding a series of allegations about safeguarding, bullying and SATs results.

Some of these were upheld, including one that found some staff had started at the school without DBS checks, as well as a family member appointed to a senior post in the trust, and evidence that some bullying processes were not followed.

In the same month, the trust was also hit with a financial notice to improve.

It was however eventually cleared by the Standards and Testing Agency over allegations of inaccuracies in its SATs results.

Cuckoo Hall Academies Trust is also one of 50 academy trusts revealed by Schools Week to have cut executive pay following pressure from the government.