Oasis academy trust criticised by Ofsted in first ‘focused’ inspection

A multi-academy trust (MAT) has been criticised by Ofsted for its “legacy of weak challenge” in the first published results of a focused MAT inspection.

Ofsted visited 10 Oasis Community Learning Trust (OCL) schools between March 2-5, eight of which were section 5 visits with the remaining two being section 8 monitoring inspections.

However, OCL today said in a statement it questioned the inspectorate’s method during the inspection period.

In January, education secretary Nicky Morgan wrote to Sir Michael Wilshaw explaining she wanted the inspectorate to batch-inspect multiple schools, rather than the trust itself.

The visit to Oasis schools is the first to be published by Ofsted.

Her Majesty’s Inspector Catherine Anwar wrote to the trust’s chief executive John Murphy in March. The letter has been published today.

In the letter, she said: “A legacy of weak challenge and insufficiently systematic or rigorous improvement work has resulted in slow or little improvement for nearly half the academies.”

The inspections rated three of the schools, who had not been previously inspected, as requires improvement, and one was put into special measures. The remaining schools were rated as good.

Overall, the trust only has two schools judged to be outstanding.

In a statement, OCL said: “We have serious concerns about the methodology used in the report. At the same time that our national office was inspected, 10 of our academies were subject to batch inspection.

“The results of 90 per cent of these inspections were incredibly positive. The secretary of state has explicitly stated that MAT inspections should be rooted in the performance of individual academies during Ofsted inspections. We have serious questions as to whether this report truly reflects this.”

The letter said the “record of improvement” is “much stronger” in some regions than others – but did not detail which regions.

The report highlighted safeguarding concerns. She said: “A lack of robust evaluation and monitoring of the policy by trust leaders has led to shortcomings and omissions. This has contributed to poor safeguarding practice in at least one academy.”

Again, no further detail about which specific school this related to was given.

The letter said: “Disadvantaged pupils, particularly boys, make significantly less progress than their peers nationally. Although in some academies this gap is closing, in too many it is not and, overall, it remains a concern. Recently introduced systems and processes show, as yet, limited impact on improved outcomes for pupils.”

The letter explained that annual primary school reports to OCL “lack detailed analysis” and “are not evaluative and do not identify precise areas for improvement”.
This was described as a “significant shortcoming”.

The report said a number of reports into the trust had been written by external consultants, but these “lacked detail” and “demonstrate little challenge” and “do not review the impact of their work with academies”.

OCL has one teaching school, in the north west, but said the MAT had realised this could not reach all its academies so regional lead academies are being set up in other regions so “good practice can be shared and implemented more widely”.

The trust said it has “already identified and begun to address many of the issues noted”.

OCL has 44 academies, 30 of which have been taken on in the last three years. The majority of its schools – 26 – are primary.

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