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‘I am a supporter of Ofsted – and I want it to inspect my academy chain’

Frank Norris, director of the Co-operative Academies Trust, writes:

In the wake of the uncertainties surrounding the inspection of central functions of academy chains, we have opened our doors to Ofsted scrutiny.

This week we have written to Nicky Morgan, the Secretary of State, and Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector, inviting Ofsted inspectors to inspect the central provision provided by the trust to its seven academies.

The Co-operative Group sponsors three secondary academies in Manchester, Leeds and Stoke-on-Trent and four primary academies in Leeds. 

As a former senior HMI with Ofsted, I have long been a strong supporter of the positive impact of effective and supportive inspection and so I was disappointed with the conflicting views expressed by Nicky Morgan and Michael Wilshaw as to whether existing legislation enables the central functions of academy chains to be inspected.

I see no good reason why these central functions should not be subject to regular inspection in the same way school improvement functions in local authorities are inspected. I am also dismayed at the limited comment from academy chains about this issue.

I have been inspecting schools and local authorities since 1995 and I know how important inspection is to drive up standards. Our trust has a very small team of five supporting seven academies in very challenging circumstances across the north of England.

Our academies are all doing well and improving, and I believe their success is down to the combined efforts of all in the trust; including the small central team. If Ofsted want to come and inspect the impact of the central function then I certainly wouldn’t stand in their way.

An important element of any inspection is the credibility of those undertaking the inspection. I would be critical of Ofsted if they tried to deploy inspectors with little or no experience of the work of a small trust like ours but if they deliver high quality inspectors we would be delighted to discuss our work with them

The academies in the Co-operative Academies Trust are sponsored by The Co-operative Group and includes local authorities, further education colleges and universities as educational partners. The secondary academy in Stoke-on-Trent was the most improved in the city this year while their Manchester academy was the most improved in 2013.

Related links

Ofsted must be granted powers to inspect academy chains, MPs say

Ofsted should inspect academy chains, says schools minister

Ofsted criticises ‘low expectations’ at AET academy chain

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