Press release: Have your say on measures to transform failing schools

A consultation has been launched today (21 October 2015) on proposals to speed up the transformation of failing schools and schools that are deemed to be ‘coasting’ – delivering on the government’s commitment to extend opportunity and ensure all children are supported to reach their full potential.

The tough new powers, first put forward by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan in the Education and Adoption Bill in June, will allow the government to swiftly intervene and turn around failing schools. The measures will sweep away the bureaucracy previously exploited by opponents with ideological objections who could delay or obstruct the process by which academy sponsors take over to improve the running of schools. In some cases, campaigners have delayed intervention by drawing out debates, refusing to provide important information and blocking vital decisions.

Schools also eligible for intervention will be those which fall within a new definition of ‘coasting’ where performance data shows that, year on year, they are failing to ensure their pupils reach their potential. Unlike failing schools, where there is no question that swift intervention is required, coasting schools will be offered help.

The consultation seeks views on the proposed definition of a mainstream school which is coasting as well as the options for developing a coasting definition for special schools and for pupil referral units.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said:

We are committed to delivering on our manifesto commitment to transform failing and coasting schools so that every child has the benefits of an excellent education.

Over the course of the last Parliament, we saw a million more pupils in good or outstanding schools. The measures outlined in this consultation will focus on the next million, extending opportunity to young people right across the country.

Views are also sought on a revised ‘Schools causing concern’ guidance, which sets out how regional schools commissioners will use the new powers in the bill to turn around failing schools and to challenge coasting schools and other cases of underperformance.

Notes to editors

The consultation ‘Intervening in failing, underperforming and coasting schools’ will run until 18 December.

Harris Primary Academy Kenley in Croydon, south London

In 2012, Roke Primary in Croydon was given an Ofsted notice to improve and then placed in ‘full special measures’ in 2013. A ‘Save Roke’ campaign was set up to resist sponsorship by the Harris Federation. A petition opposing academy conversion was handed to the Department for Education (DfE) and the consultation was obstructed by campaigners, causing Harris to extend the consultation to deal with the delays caused by opponents.

The school eventually opened as an academy in September 2013, 16 months after it was first judged ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted. Since becoming an academy, key stage 2 (KS2) results have seriously improved, from 65% of pupils achieving a level 4 in reading, writing and maths in 2013 to 94% in 2014; and the school was judged ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted in June. Early KS2 results suggest Harris Kenley has maintained its good (94%) results this year.

Kate Magliocco, Principal at Harris Primary Kenley, said:

In the run-up to opening, there was a great deal of confusion about what it meant to be an academy and I know some in the community were genuinely fearful about what it meant. It suited certain groups from outside the school to stoke these fears.

But I also remember lots of parents and even grandparents confiding in me that they supported the academy but felt scared and intimidated to say so publicly, such was the hostility and anger from some of those opposing academy status.

By transforming standards quickly, we now have a successful school with a happy and thoroughly supportive parent body. Whatever an anti-academy campaigner might say to them, parents know the difference between a child who is taught badly at school and one who comes home full of excitement about what they have done that day.

During all of the anger of the conversion process, the campaigners tried to convince parents it was impossible to combine high academic standards with a fun, caring and loving primary school environment. We have shown that this is simply not the case.

Harris Primary Academy Philip Lane in Tottenham, north London

Another example of intervention being delayed is Harris Primary Academy Philip Lane, which opened in 2012 to replace Downhills Primary School, a Tottenham school that had been failing pupils for almost a decade.

Before opening as an academy, Downhills was rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted with over 30% of pupils leaving without good grades. Campaigners put up barriers to the process through a series of repeated unsuccessful appeals and reviews, which caused delays.

Under the sponsorship of Harris, the school has been judged by Ofsted as ‘good’ with ‘outstanding leadership’, and reading, writing and maths results have soared by a quarter.

Sir Dan Moynihan, Chief Executive of the Harris Federation, said:

The campaign against academy status for Downhills was organised and vocal, with the backing of several national campaigning organisations. Such was the hostile atmosphere, the building was physically attacked from the outside several times once the academy was open.

This aggression was obviously frightening for parents and staff, but we are delighted that it did not make an iota of difference to the success of the academy, which thrived from day one.

The children were happy, the staff were happy and the parents were happy too. It improved from special measures to good by its second year and is finally giving its children the quality of education they had been denied for far too long under the predecessor school.

The Hewett Academy in Norwich

Under local authority control, the Hewett School was placed in ‘special measures’ twice in the last 10 years.

The school’s GCSE results have been below both national and local averages for the last 10 years, while the school’s popularity has fallen with parents, with the school being less than half full.

Following a prolonged campaign from opponents to the academy programme, the school reopened as the Hewett Academy in September this year. The school is now sponsored by the Inspiration Trust, a leading trust in the region that has took Thetford Academy from ‘special measures’ to ‘good’ within 15 months.

Dame Rachel de Souza, Chief Executive of Inspiration Trust, said:

The Hewett School had been neglected for years – a decade of falling pupil numbers, big problems recruiting staff, and poorly maintained buildings. Despite all that, a small number of local campaigners believed that more of the same was the answer to restoring the school to its past glories.

We faced rumour, misinformation and politically-motivated opposition from a small but vocal campaign. Thankfully, the Department for Education focused on the educational issues and the Inspiration Trust’s track record as a sponsor, such as taking Hethersett Academy from special measures to the top mainstream GCSE results in the county in just 2 years.

We have an energetic new principal from an outstanding local school, and there is a renewed buzz throughout the academy, and a new hope that things really can get better.

Tom Leverage, the new Principal of the Hewett Academy, said:

Having only opened in September, it is early days for the Hewett Academy, but already teachers are benefiting from being able to work with fellow subject experts across the Inspiration Trust. Pupil attendance is up 10% and climbing, and we have big plans to work with the local community to improve sporting facilities.

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