'Orphan' school shunned by 3 sponsors rated 'inadequate' - again

An “orphan” school that has been waiting nine years for a sponsor after being shunned by three academy trusts has been rated ‘inadequate’ again.

Ofsted inspectors found a “sizeable minority” of pupils at Hanson School, in Bradford, do not “regularly follow the rules”, with disadvantaged youngsters not achieving “as well as they should”.

The 1,600-pupil school was handed an academy order by the government in 2011 after being put in special measures.

Since then, three academy trusts have been commissioned to support the school, but all walked away. The school has been in special measures for six of the past 10 years.

As Schools Week has reported, the issues stem from unresolved talks between Bradford council and a leisure provider on the school’s site, as well as Hanson’s annual £1 million PFI contract and deficit which is now reportedly £4 million.

Since the latest trust – the Gorse Academies Trust – walked away in July last year, Bradford council has been running the school. Ofsted found the council has “begun steps to improve the school”, with leaders “starting to plan the curriculum to make sure that pupils know and remember more”.

But they said: “There has not been the stability and consistency of governance to support the school in moving forward. This means that the school has not improved.”

The current headteacher, Richard Woods who joined in April 2016, has worked with four different governing bodies and five chair of governors.

Ofsted said the current governors are now “clearer about the strengths and weaknesses of the school”.

Concerns raised included pupils’ achievement in English and humanities being consistently low and the number of exclusions being “too high”.

But the report added: “Leaders are aware that they have not won the hearts and minds of a sizeable minority of pupils.”

Jon Hairsine, chair of governors, told the Telegraph and Argus: “The recent judgement seems to me more of a reflection of the troubled recent history of the school, and does not accurately reflect the quality of the current school leadership team and governing board.

“We as new leaders are dedicated to the children who attend the school and want to make sure we give them the best start in life.”

Councillor Imran Khan, portfolio holder for education, employment and skills, added: “We hope that school is now given the chance to continue driving forward with improvements and not subjected to another disruptive move to make it an academy.”

With an academy order first issued in 2011, Hanson has been in take-over limbo for longer than any other school in the country.

The next closest is three schools that were issued orders in 2014 – meaning they’ve been waiting six years for an academy takeover.

When challenged about these schools last year by Schools Week, national schools commissioner Dominic Herrington said: “In that really small number of cases [where there are land issues], the conversations that we have with the local authority are painstaking and at times difficult. We will collaborate as intensively as we can in that situation.

“But the important thing is not to lose sight of the fact that the school has to have an improvement plan and headteachers. The Hanson School [a school in Bradford waiting seven years for a takeover] has improved – and that’s really important we keep up that progress. At the same time we’re working through all those issues… we redouble our efforts and never stop talking the LA to find ways through all those cases.”

The DfE has been approached for comment.