Academies

Ministers told to scrap academy order after ‘good’ Ofsted

City's last maintained secondary at centre of parent campaign overturns 'inadequate' rating

City's last maintained secondary at centre of parent campaign overturns 'inadequate' rating

4 Jul 2023, 17:40

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Parent power has pushed back plans to academise Sheffield's last maintained secondary school

The last authority-maintained secondary in Sheffield has demanded ministers tear up its academy order after the school overturned an ‘inadequate’ Ofsted.

The Department for Education had initially wanted Brigantia Learning Trust to absorb King Edward VII School (KES) following its poor inspection grade in September.

But a campaign led by parents – who argued the chain was not suitable for the secondary – against the move prompted Yorkshire and Humber regional director Alison Wilson to defer her decision.

The DfE representative said at the time she wanted to carry out further investigations to “ensure the school is transferred to the most appropriate trust with a strong track record”.

It was later confirmed the attempts to academise the secondary were put on hold until the results of a follow-up Ofsted visit in May were published. 

Sheffield school takes ‘robust action’ after concerns

And now the school has confirmed it has been rated ‘good’ by the watchdog, which found “leaders have taken robust action to address the significant safeguarding weaknesses evident” last year.  

Reacting to the news, a KES spokesperson said: “Headteacher Linda Gooden is absolutely confident that King Edward VII School has the high-quality leadership capacity to continue to improve.

“The governing board and the headteacher have submitted a formal letter of application to the regional director and the secretary of state for education to request the academy order is revoked.”

KES was rated ‘inadequate’ over ineffective safeguarding in September.

Inspectors said at the time that leaders did not do enough to keep children safe, with a significant minority of pupils feeling they did not have “an adult to speak to”. But three of the five areas were rated ‘good’.

Government’s wait for new report into Sheffield school

However, the assessors adjudged the safeguarding arrangements to be “effective” during their latest visit two months ago.

“Following the previous inspection, leaders have worked effectively alongside the local authority to address the significant weaknesses related to safeguarding.

“This important work has been prioritised by leaders. For example, leaders have understood and assessed the risks of pupils leaving the site during the school day.”

Gooden revealed in a letter last month that Wilson would wait for the results of the follow-up visit before deciding whether to go ahead with the forced academy conversion.

This came after it was announced that academy orders could be ripped up if schools rated ‘inadequate’ mostly over safeguarding issues earn an improved grade in new quicker reinspections.

While the school did have a ‘requirements improvement’ rating for ‘quality of education’ – suggesting safeguarding wasn’t the only issue – it did appear to have benefited from the new rules.

Guidance published in October also noted that the secretary of state can rip up academy orders in “exceptional circumstances”. The KES spokesperson argued today the school fits into the criteria.

A spokesperson for the DfE said officials “are considering the application to revoke the academy order”. An update will be provided “in due course”.

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