Ofsted gives 700 sponsored academies a fresh start


The Ofsted ratings of more than 700 schools have been wiped clean after becoming an academy or rebrokering, a Schools Week analysis reveals.

There are hundreds of thousands of pupils in these sponsored academies, many of which were categorised as underperforming by the education watchdog before having their Ofsted grades removed.

Ofsted classifies failing schools that have become sponsored academies or academies that have been rebrokered to a different trust as “new” – giving them a three-year respite from further inspections.

While the respite has been welcomed for giving trusts more time to drive sustainable improvement, a rapid rise in the number of rebrokered schools appears to be having other consequences, says a major study by the Sutton Trust, published last week.

Its report, Chain Effects, flags how multi-academy trusts (MATs) move up performance league tables after their low-achieving schools are rebrokered.
The findings have prompted questions over whether trusts should be given substantial numbers of new schools while some of their current academies are yet to have an Ofsted inspection.

Janet Downs, from the state school campaign group Local Schools Network, said she was “concerned” about MATs “dumping” their failing academies.

“Dropping underperforming academies or those judged less than ‘good’ under a MAT’s watch minimises damage to the MAT’s brand. History is rewritten when references to earlier MATs are wiped.”

Schools Week’s analysis of Ofsted monthly management data, published last month, found 718 sponsored academies yet to have Ofsted visits after having their past inspection records wiped clean.

History is rewritten when references to earlier MATs are wiped

The data does not include figures for how many pupils are in each of these schools. But based on average school sizes, we calculate they could be teaching more than 300,000 young people – or about 4 per cent of the 8.67 million pupils in England’s schools.

Schools Week revealed in February that 235 academies had been handed to new trusts in the past two calendar years, up from just 26 in 2014.

Academies can be rebrokered for a number of reasons, but the most common is low performance and it is deemed that the school would perform better under a different trust.

Ofsted says that historical information about a school can be found on the watchdog’s website under a “related providers” tab.

However, when Schools Week looked for Ofsted records for ten rebrokered academies, two did not have this tab available.

Becky Francis, the co-author of Chain Effects, told Schools Week the government needed to “urgently” find ways to “monitor really tightly those schools that have been rebrokered to make sure they are rebrokered with successful MATs”.

She added regional schools commissioners should be “looking very closely” at MATs that have had academies removed before handing more schools to them.

Schools Week revealed last month that the country’s largest academy chain, Academies Enterprise Trust (AET), was preparing to sponsor new schools, despite two of its schools being rebrokered this year.

Eight of the trust’s schools were rebrokered between December 2014 and April 2015 after government intervention.

Ten academies under the E-ACT trust were rebrokered in 2014 after Ofsted inspectors raised concerns over performance.

The Sutton Trust report ranked 48 established trusts based on the results of their disadvantaged pupils. It found E-ACT was ranked ninth, an improvement of nine places from last year. AET was ranked 15th this year, compared with 27th in 2016.

The report only includes trusts that have two sponsored academies, and which have operated at least three academies for at least three years.
But academy leaders have previously said the three-year respite gives a new trust time to put in place foundations for improvement.

Sir Steve Lancashire, chief executive of REAch2, said last year that regional schools commissioners must provide close monitoring of rebrokered schools, with the transferring academy to be “at least good by the time Ofsted inspect at the three-year point”.

An Ofsted spokesperson said the watchdog has the right to inspect a school at any time if it has concerns, regardless of its status.

He added that first inspection of new schools can take place within three years of opening, but in most instances, “we will not select new schools for a first inspection until they are in their third year of operation”.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education added: “The performance history and past Ofsted reports of all schools remains publicly available.

“When academies are treated as new schools they must be given a realistic amount of time for their new leadership team to make the required improvements.”

They added that regional schools commissioners will “constantly monitor and challenge” performance in rebrokered academies.

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  1. An Ofsted spokesperson said the watchdog has the right to inspect a school at any time if it has concerns, regardless of its status.
    They added that regional schools commissioners will “constantly monitor and challenge” performance in rebrokered academies.
    How often does this actually happen? The current OFSTED model is unsustainable.

  2. The next time Nick Gibb brags that Academies have better OFSTED results than maintained schools, remind him that the worst performing Academies have their OFSTED results deleted.

    Imagine having a credit card debt that you transfer to a new lender. And the new lender immediately cancels the debt. Are you ever going to get to grips with your spending problem? When the debt builds up, just transfer it.

    The same applies to this method of school “improvement”. It is school improvement using the “dodgy statistics method”. Good for the MAT CEO bonus though – success is guaranteed – plus, they don’t have to send their own kids to schools like these!

  3. bobby

    ?! that’s a special something. Any MAT that has a failing school will simply shed it off into someone else’s MAT, it’s then classified as ‘new’ doesn’t get inspected for three years, thus easing the recipient MAT’s load; the recipient can more or less forget it for two and half years, if it’s not up to scratch, move it on . . . Failing academies, therefore, could continue to be failing but never get inspected but simply moved from MAT(E) to MAT(E).

  4. Three years for a four year old is almost forever. Rebroker! What are we doing here? This is not a business deal or re-mortgage. This is a one time chance for people. They may be four years old or fourteen. But. This is their chance!

  5. Newly-converted academies are designated ‘new’ with no Ofsted assessment. That’s the theory. But it appears converted academies with ‘Outstanding’ status carry that judgement with them.
    For example, Reach2’s Tidemill Academy is ‘Outstanding’ but that predates conversion. Tidemill Primary School was judged Outstanding in 2008. The report for Tidemill Primary is no longer on Ofsted website. The DfE school performance tables list the academy as Outstanding and provides a link to a report. But the link only shows the academy conversion letter dated Feb 2012.

    To add to the confusion, Edubase lists Tidemill Academy as becoming an academy on 1 September 2011 but joining Reach2 on 1 September 2015. So what trust was responsible for Tidemill Academy from conversion in 2011 to joining Reach2 in 2015? I’d no record of Tidemill having been rebrokered (see my numerous FoI requests on WhatDoTheyKnow).
    Bear with me – it took some digging. Companies House shows Tidemill Community Academies Trust incorporated on 12 August 2012. On 12 August 2013 it changed its name to Reach2Maritime Academy Trust. Reach2Maritime is now consolidated into Reach2 and there’s an ‘active proposal to strike off’ Reach2Maritime. Accounts for y/e 31 August 2016 for Reach2Maritime are overdue.
    No rebrokering then – just changes of name of trust to Reach2Maritime which was under the umbrella of Reach2 and has now been consolidated within Reach2.
    This tortuous story highlights the difficulty in tracking the history of academies. At the same time, any trust which takes over an outstanding school immediately boosts their credentials.

  6. Ofsted is inconsistent about inspecting rebrokered academies. Inspectors descended on Spalding Academy (previously Sir John Gleed School) after just a few weeks of the academy being taken over by South Lincolnshire Academies Trust and judged it Inadequate – see here for full story, scroll down
    According to DfE school performance tables, Spalding Academy is a ‘new academy’ opened on 1 September 2016. But the school had been an academy since 2013 with CfBT and was twice judged Inadequate on CfBT’s watch. Ofsted reports for Sir John Gleed School are no longer on Ofsted website (although an internet search will find them).
    CfBT dropped two of its Lincolnshire schools which were less than good: Sir John Gleed and Stamford Queen Eleanor School (SQES). The excuse given for dropping SQES was ‘geographical isolation’. This was nonsense as CfBT had had a presence in Lincolnshire since the early noughties as Lincolnshire’s school improvement partner and was once Lincolnshire County Council’s preferred sponsor for schools converting to academies. And CfBT has retained The Deepings School, also in Lincolnshire. But that’s ‘Outstanding’.