Academies, Ofsted

‘Vindicated’: Academy trust first to have termination notice withdrawn

Decision draws to a close a years-long saga which also led to the dismissal of an Ofsted inspector

Decision draws to a close a years-long saga which also led to the dismissal of an Ofsted inspector

14 May 2022, 5:00

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The government has withdrawn an academy termination notice after the school’s Tory donor-founded trust got an improved Ofsted following a legal challenge.

Landau Forte Academy Moorhead, in Derby, will remain within its current trust after Ofsted judged the school to be “improving” and removed it from special measures.

The decision draws to a close a years-long saga for Landau Forte Charitable Trust, which also led to the dismissal of an Ofsted inspector.

Ian Blaney, an education lawyer and partner at Lee Bolton Monier-Williams, said the case could provide “some source of encouragement” for other trusts to fight such decisions.

He added: “If they do not challenge it, not only will they potentially lose the academy but also the reputation of the trust.”

Landau first received a termination warning notice over the Derby school in 2018. This was followed by two actual termination notices, one in 2020 and another the following year.

The second notice followed an Ofsted inspection in May that found that, while the school was taking effective action to move out of special measures, the trust had failed to bring about “significant improvements”.

However, the trust launched a judicial review challenge in the High Court after being told that its funding agreement would be terminated in December.

In the meantime, an Ofsted inspection in April, published online by the school, rated it as “requires improvement” with leadership and management judged “good”. As a result, the termination notice has been withdrawn.

It appears to be the first time such a notice has been revoked.

The online list of removed notices includes only termination warning notices or minded to terminate letters being withdrawn.

Move ’embarrassing’ for government

Blaney said it was “more embarrassing” for the government to “withdraw a full direction than the indication of a direction”.

Trust chief executive Sarah Findlay-Cobb said the decision was a “fair reward” for the school and is the “best result” for pupils.

A DfE spokesperson said that “in some cases” a school will stay with its existing trust if it demonstrates capacity to secure “sustained improvement”. The trust has now pulled its legal action.

Blaney added: “It was always in the DfE’s deck of cards to pull the termination at the late stage … the fact that they have done it suggests they were under a great deal of pressure in this case.”

The trust was founded by property developer Martin Landau and luxury hotel group founder Sir Rocco Forte, who have donated £100,000 to the Conservative party election campaign in 2019.

Last year the DfE lost a High Court battle over an “irrational” academy order for Yew Tree Primary School, in Sandwell, West Midlands. 

Following the first termination notice in 2020, Landau Forte commissioned an independent review which concluded that the school was making “good progress”.

The review was conducted by James Kilner, an education consultant and at the time a serving Ofsted inspector.

As revealed by Schools Week, Ofsted said the activity “materially breached” the terms of Kilner’s contract and terminated his employment – highlighting a grey area for Ofsted’s part-time workforce.

Kilner told Schools Week this week he was delighted that the trust had “been vindicated … [and] believed all along with the accurate assessment” of the school’s strengths.

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