Sheffield school ‘in control of destiny’ as academy order torn up

Head hails 'rare achievement' for school that recovered from 'inadequate' Ofsted report in less than a year

Head hails 'rare achievement' for school that recovered from 'inadequate' Ofsted report in less than a year

20 Jul 2023, 16:46

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

Ministers have ripped up an academy order for Sheffield’s last local authority-maintained secondary school after it recovered from an ‘inadequate’ Ofsted report in less than a year.  

Brigantia Learning Trust had been lined up 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 – prompted Yorkshire and Humber regional director Alison Wilson to defer her decision.

The Department for Education 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 had been put on hold until the results of a follow-up Ofsted visit in May were published. 

After securing a rating of ‘good’ from the watchdog, KES headteacher Linda Gooden wrote to education secretary Gillian Keegan urging her to tear up the academy order.

School ‘transformed fortunes in months’

And this afternoon the leader declared the “the school is back in control of its destiny” as she announced the order had been revoked.

“It is an overwhelming, astonishing and rare achievement to be able to transform the fortunes of KES in eight months.

“The school is back in control of its destiny and will go through a period of reflection before taking the next steps to consider the future.”

Gooden also noted that the “strategic focus, relentless support, resilience and determination” of the parents’ campaign helped her cause.

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 ‘assured it’s operating as good school’

However, the follow-up inspection judged safeguarding arrangements to be “effective”.

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

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

The schools causing concern guidance, which was published in October, also noted that the secretary of state can rip up academy orders in “exceptional circumstances”.

A DfE spokesperson said today’s decision to revoke the academy order was in line with the guidance and took “into account KES’s recent ‘good’ judgement”.

“The education secretary is assured that it is operating as a good school so we will not be progressing with formal intervention.”

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