Single academy trust told to improve or face closure

A single-academy trust in West Yorkshire has been warned it faces closure if it does not improve after Ofsted found it was not taking effective action to get better.

Unless Castle Hall Academy Trust can prove to schools commissioners that it can “achieve rapid and sustained improvement”, it will be issued with a termination warning notice.

The trust is already in discussions about plans to have Castle Hall Academy, its only school, join a larger trust.

In a “pre-warning notice” issued to the trust in January but only published today, Vicky Beer, the regional commissioner for Lancashire and West Yorkshire, said she was pleased the trust had agreed in principle that Castle Hall Academy should join a multi-academy trust.

However, these discussions should not “take any focus away from the delivery of the academy’s improvement plan”, Beer warned.

Castle Hall Academy was rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted last January, prompting Beer to write to the trust to express her concerns.

A subsequent monitoring visit by inspectors last September found that leaders and managers were “not taking effective action towards the removal of special measures”.

“I therefore remain concerned about the continued under-performance of the academy,” said Beer in her latest letter. “As the regional schools commissioner acting on behalf of the secretary of state, I need to be satisfied that this academy can achieve rapid and sustained improvement. If I am not satisfied this can be achieved I will consider issuing a termination warning notice.”

A termination warning notice is the second stage in the government’s intervention process for struggling academy trusts. In most cases, a pre-warning notice is sent first, followed by a termination warning notice if demands are not met.

If further demands in that notice are not met, the government then usually issues a notice of intention to terminate, and then a termination notice, although the process varies, and the names of the notices issued sometimes change.

Castle Hall was given 15 days from the end of January to provide evidence of its plans to improve, but it is not clear from the government’s documents published today whether the DfE’s demands were met.

It is not the first time the government has waited a long time to publish an academy trust warning notice.

In 2016, it was accused of trying to avoid bad publicity by delaying the release of documents relating to poor pupil performance and governance at 15 academies after it published a series of old notices all at once on a Friday before a bank holiday weekend.