SPTA to be stripped of ‘isolated’ Nottinghamshire schools and future of Doncaster academies in doubt

One of England’s largest academy chains will be stripped of three of its schools with the future of three more in doubt following intervention by the government.

East Midlands and the Humber regional schools commissioner Jennifer Bexon-Smith (pictured) wrote to the School Partnership Trust Academies (SPTA) describing performance concerns over 13 of its academies and outlining plans to move three “isolated” schools in Nottinghamshire to another sponsor by next September.

According to the Yorkshire Post, the leadership of three of the trust’s schools in Doncaster will also be reviewed, along with other schools in the area.

In her letter, the regional commissioner said three Nottinghamshire schools would transfer to other sponsors: Queen Elizabeth Academy and Wainwright Primary Academy, both rated as inadequate, and Leamington Primary and Nursery Academy, which is rated as requires improvement.

The “isolation” described in the letter is believed to be connected to the fact the trust’s remaining schools are mainly located in Yorkshire.

Ms Bexon-Smith also raised fears about three Doncaster schools: inadequate-rated Don Valley Academy, plus Ash Hill Academy and de Warenne Academy, which are both deemed to require improvement.

She said SPTA had “yet to deliver a transformational change” despite having run all three schools for at least four years.

She said the Department for Education intended to use a “more radical approach” to sponsorship in Doncaster, and had been given Treasury funds to do so.

The letter also points to worries expressed by former Lancashire and West Yorkshire RSC Paul Smith about South Leeds Academy, Manor Croft Primary, Whetley Primary and Willow Green Primary, all of which are in Yorkshire and under SPTA’s control.

It comes as a fresh blow for the trust, which closed Dawes Lane Academy, an alternative provision free school in Yorkshire, in September after ongoing recruitment problems and a failure to find a suitable permanent site.

The trust was also warned by Ofsted about the performance of several of its schools in July last year following linked inspections at six of them.

Paul West, the SPTA’s director of education, told the Post his trust was in “ongoing discussions” with the DfE to “ensure the continued stability of SPTA Academies and the progress and attainment for our students remains our shared highest priority”.

He said: “In relation to the specific academies mentioned in the letter from the regional schools commissioner, we are providing individual and bespoke challenge and support to ensure their improvement needs are being met.

“SPTA recently underwent a focused inspection from Ofsted which was an in-depth evaluation of our school improvement strategy and capacity to support our academies.

“The positive impact of the support we offer our academies was a feature of the inspection dialogue and we look forward to receiving the officially published feedback letter in the near future.”

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