Ofsted: standards ‘too low’ at CfBT academies

Inspectors have warned academy sponsor CfBT that standards in its schools are “too low”, adding that many of its most disadvantaged students are not making sufficient progress.

Ofsted made the remarks as part of a “focused inspection” of the academy chain.

It comes just months after the watchdog announced it had purged about 1,200 additional inspectors – many of whom were supplied by CfBT amid concerns over the quality of inspections.

Following its visit to six of the trust’s academies, Ofsted concluded that the sponsor had taken on “too many academies too quickly”.

The inspection letter adds: “The trust did not have a clear rationale for the selection of schools, a strategy for creating geographical clusters or a plan to meet academies’ different needs. As a result, standards are too low. The trust relied heavily on external consultants but did not ensure their accountability in securing rapid and secure improvement.

“As a result, while some academies have improved well or sustained their performance, too many have not,” it states.

It is the second occasion that Ofsted has criticised a multi-academy trust after undertaking a focused inspection. In June, the inspectorate warned Oasis, which sponsors 44 schools, that it had a “legacy of weak leadership”.

The criticism comes at a time when the Conservative government is ramping up the number of schools it wants to become academies. Last month, prime minister David Cameron announced that he wanted every school in the country to become an academy.

The watchdog called on CfBT to put in place systems to track the achievement and progress of its disadvantaged students, and called for better methods of sharing best practice.

In a statement, CfBT Schools Trust’s chief executive, Chris Tweedale, said: Every one of the trust’s schools is important to us. As a responsible and professional organisation, we always look for ways to improve what we do. There is still work to do, and many of the issues raised in Ofsted’s letter are things we were already aware of and striving to resolve. We will continue to do so in close partnership with the dedicated professionals within all our schools to maintain the positive momentum of recent months that is recognised in this letter.”

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