Trust threatens High Court action after second termination notice

A trust has threatened to take its battle with ministers to the high court after being told for a second time it will be stripped of an ‘inadequate’ academy.

Ministers had agreed to make a “fresh decision” about the future of Landau Forte Academy Moorhead, in Derby, after issuing a funding termination notice in September.

If appropriate, we will pursue matters further by way of a judicial review

Landau Forte Charitable Trust was told it was “failing to improve standards”, but interim regional schools commissioner for the East Midlands and Humber, Carol Gray, vowed to hold off until its next Ofsted.

A monitoring inspection in May found the school was taking “effective action” towards moving out of special measures. The school was first rated inadequate by Ofsted in 2016, then again in 2019.

But inspectors noted the trust had failed to bring about “significant improvements” following these judgments and had “only recently” begun implementing a strategy to tackle weaknesses.

A new termination notice, published today, said the government was concerned “about the capacity of the trust to embed and sustain improvement”.

Trust had ‘only recently’ started tackling weaknesses

Gray said: “Whilst covid may have affected the recent improvement journey, the trust had a full year before the pandemic struck to make changes towards improvement.”

The RSC added that the trust had “taken a long time to tackle the weaknesses in the school” and there was limited evidence previous actions provided “any real impact on outcomes for pupils”.

Landau Forte said it was “deeply disappointed” by the letter, “especially as Ofsted’s monitoring visit explicitly points to the progress and improvements that have been made”.

They are continuing to challenge the Department for Education over the decision. “If appropriate, we will pursue matters further by way of a judicial review,” a spokesperson added.

The six-school trust was co-founded by property developer Martin Landau and luxury hotel group founder Sir Rocco Forte, who donated £100,000 to the Conservative party to back Boris Johnson in  the 2019 election.

Landau pointed out that Ofsted rated the school’s improvement plan as “fit for purpose”. The report also notes improvements in governance, new curriculums for reading and maths, as well as a staff understanding of the need for “urgent improvement”.

In 2019, only 28 per cent of pupils met the expected standard in reading, writing and maths. The national average that year was 65 per cent.

Misquoting had no ‘material impact’ on termination decision

In the new termination notice, Gray notes that the trust previously raised concerns about the government’s “very selective quotation (and, in one case, disturbingly, misquoting) of the Section 8 inspection report”.

The RSC acknowledges that there was “one slight misquote” in the evidence previously presented for termination.

When quoting a March 2018 Ofsted report, the government stated: “The subsequent monitoring inspection noted that the impact of this training ‘has not been reviewed robustly.”

Gray admitted this should have been presented as “the impact of some of this training, particularly in key stage 1, ‘has not been reviewed robustly’.”

But she said: “We are of the view that this misquote does not have a material impact on our argument for termination.”

She said academies minister Baroness Berridge was “of the opinion that your representations fail to provide any further strong evidence to suggest that the trust is making significant and sustained improvement”.

Berridge believes the academy would “see faster and more sustained improvement under the leadership of a new, strong trust”.

The Department for Education lost a High Court battle last month over an academy order at a school.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson’s refusal revoke an academy order for Yew Tree Primary School, in Sandwell, was ruled “irrational” and quashed by the High Court.

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