E-ACT academy chain comes under fire from Ofsted

Standards in E-ACT’s secondary academies are “too low”, and pupils from poor backgrounds are not making sufficient progress, warns watchdog

A major academy chain has come under fire from Ofsted after a review revealed that half of its schools are not providing a good enough standard of education.

Inspectors say that, despite taking “a more robust and direct approach to school improvement”, standards in E-ACT’s secondary academies are still “too low”.

A letter from Ofsted to the trust’s managers says it is “a serious area of concern” that pupils from poor backgrounds are making less progress than other pupils nationally.

Inspectors also call for the trust to give “urgent attention” to the disparity in performance between its secondary academies and its primaries, which are doing better.

A review of the outcomes from the inspections of all 23 of the trust’s academies shows that more than half are not providing a good standard of education, Ofsted says.

Five of the academies are currently inadequate and only 10 are good or better.

The letter comes as a result of a “focused inspection” of seven of E-ACT’s academies in December last year, as part of Ofsted’s drive to look more closely at how multi-academy trusts are managing their schools.

Underperforming academies

A previous damning report from January 2014 – which put five of its academies in special measures – resulted in 10 of the chain’s schools being transferred to other sponsors.

E-ACT has come under attack from Ofsted just a week after the inspectorate said England’s largest chain, Academies Enterprise Trust, was “failing too many pupils.”

Today’s letter, from Deana Holdaway, HMI, to E-ACT’s chief executive, David Moran, says: “Since the focused inspections in 2014, the trust has taken a more robust and direct approach to school improvement.

“This is evident from the outcomes of the seven focused inspections in December 2015, which were positive, and demonstrated that most leaders were taking effective action to remove the weaknesses from the underperforming academies.

“Nevertheless, the quality of provision for too many pupils in E-ACT academies is not good enough.”

The letter points out that a “common weakness” across E-ACT primary academies that were not up to scratch was that “leaders did not rigorously review and evaluate the quality of teaching or pupils’ progress to inform future priorities”.

Regarding secondaries judged to be less than good, inspectors say: “Subject leaders lacked the knowledge and skills to improve the quality of teaching and raise achievement in their subject areas.”

The report highlights that one E-ACT school is outstanding, nine are good, eight require improvement and five are inadequate.

The trust has 23 academies including 11 secondaries, 11 primaries and one all-through school.

A spokeswoman for E-ACT said: “We are pleased Ofsted recognises the substantial progress that has been made within E-ACT, particularly in relation to the performance of our primary academies. It was also encouraging to see that all of the recommendations made are already being implemented and have been for some time.

“Over the past year, we have overhauled the way that E-ACT is run, and the way that our academies operate, so that children and young people genuinely have an excellent education during their time with us. This is now beginning to bear fruit, but there is more work to be done.

“We are clear that performance needs to improve in our secondary academies, and we are focusing relentlessly on the quality of teaching through our Raising Achievement Boards across the trust.”

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