David Ross Education Trust given 4 Ofsted visits to improve academy

The David Ross Education Trust has been told it has four Ofsted visits to improve a failing academy or face having funding axed.

The trust has been warned to improve the Lodge Park Academy in Corby, which was placed in special measures in January after Ofsted criticised “mundane” teaching, pupils who show a “lack of respect” and “inadequate” progress.

The pre-termination warning notice, sent to the trust on April 5 but published today, said that interim national schools commissioner Dominic Herrington and regional schools commissioner Martin Post believe DRET “has the capacity to achieve the rapid and sustained improvement required” at the secondary school.

“If, however, the school has not come out of category by fourth Ofsted visit, I will consider termination of the academy’s supplemental funding agreement,” the notice warned.

Of the previous 10 ‘minded’ or ‘pre-termination warning’ notices issued, just two include an explicit expectation over future Ofsted grades. But both are offered much shorter timeframes for improvement.

REAch2 Academy Trust was told in March that Copperfield Academy must “move out of category” at its next section 5 Ofsted.

Meanwhile, the Academies Enterprise Trust was told in March that Offa’s Mead Academy must get a “satisfactory” section 8 report “indicating improvements are being demonstrated” – or face funding being pulled.

A spokesperson for DRET said the trust had taken Ofsted’s findings “very seriously” and had appointed a new executive principal earlier this year.

“Under his leadership, we have already put in place new strategies to tackle the areas noted by Ofsted as part of our action plan, and we are confident that we will improve outcomes at Lodge Park Academy.”

Inspectors warned that trustees at Lodge Park have “overseen a decline in the school’s performance” and described pupil outcomes as being “too low for too long”, with inadequate progress across a range of subjects including English, maths and science and too little support for disadvantaged and special needs pupils.

Teaching was criticised has being “mundane” and “failing to enthuse pupils”, while teachers failed to manage pupil behaviour and “too many pupils show a lack of respect for other pupils and adults”.

However, the report acknowledged that the new executive principal had introduced strategies to challenge poor behaviour and improve teaching.

DRET is one of the country’s largest academy trusts with 34 schools, and is sponsored by Carphone Warehouse millionaire David Ross.

In 2017, DRET’s chair, former education secretary David Blunkett, resigned from the trust, alongside DRET’s chief executive, director of school improvement and head of communications. Shortly afterwards, the trust launched a consultation in a bid to save £1 million across its schools.

New chief executive Rowena Hackwood was appointed in May 2017.

The pre-termination warning notice is the first of its kind to be issued since April 2017. Pre-termination and pre-warning notices are the least severe of the government’s warnings. Minded to terminate notices, the most common type, require a school improvement strategy and for trusts to reach several improvement targets.

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