DfE ‘minded to terminate’ funding of ‘inadequate’ primary academy in Wiltshire

A Wiltshire primary school that is part of the Diocese of Salisbury Academy Trust faces having its funding stopped and being rebrokered to a new sponsor after receiving an ‘inadequate’ grade from Ofsted in July.

Marden Vale CofE Academy was judged ‘inadequate’ in every category except its early years provision, which ‘requires improvement,’ following its first ever inspection in June. The school was placed in special measures.

As a result a ‘Minded to Terminate’ letter was issued to the members and directors of the Diocese of Salisbury Academy Trust earlier this month by the Regional Schools Commissioner for the South West, Lisa Mannall.

“Any funding agreement of an academy may be terminated by the Secretary of State where special measures are required to be taken by the academy or the academy requires significant improvement,” she informed the trust.

Mannall highlighted Ofsted’s concerns about the school, which included pupils’ attainment at key stage 1 in reading, writing and mathematics being in the bottom 20 per cent of schools nationally for the last two years.

The curriculum was said to “lack breadth and depth” and Ofsted also said the trust’s directors and local governors had not ensured that leaders had “driven improvement to raise standards quickly enough”.

Safeguarding at the school was branded “weak” and the quality of teaching, learning and assessment “poor”, while instability in staffing, bad behaviour and persistent absences were further problems.

“I know you understand that I need to be satisfied that the Trust will support Marden Vale to achieve rapid and sustained improvement,” Mannall wrote.

“If I am not satisfied this can be achieved I will consider issuing a Termination Warning Notice in respect of the Supplemental Funding Agreement for the Academy.”

When government funding agreements are terminated, schools are either transferred to new sponsors or ordered to close.

The letter acknowledged that the trust had discussed “proactive changes to leadership and governance” with Mannall, including a new leadership team which will be introduced at the academy from September, and the appointment of a National Leader of Governance as interim chair.

Plans to commission a review of governance and of the use of pupil premium funding, as recommended by Ofsted, have also been agreed.

The school must now submit a post-Ofsted plan to the regional schools commissioner, alongside other documentation outlining strategies for rapid improvement of the school and methods for address the safeguarding concerns, by September 15.

Andrew Wilson, executive headteacher of Marden Vale, said the report was “very tough” but staff and governors would “take its messages on board” and “use it as an impetus to improve”.

“Despite the overall line, however, the Ofsted report notes that the current executive headteacher and interim headteacher have been decisive in tackling issues where standards fall below expectations’ and that ‘new governors have the necessary skills and expertise to provide better challenge’.

“The report also notes that our teachers have been successful in improving children’s writing and understanding of phonics. I am determined that these will be only the start of a journey of dramatic improvement at Marden Vale.”

Wilson added: “We have already written to parents setting out how we intend to respond to the Ofsted report, and I am always available to hear people’s concerns.”