Largest academy trust told it could lose 'inadequate' primary school

Commissioners issue warning to Academies Enterprise Trust over Ofsted rating of Chepstow school

Mark Smulian

AET received a warning after one of its primary schools was put in special measures.

England's biggest academy trust has been warned it could be stripped of one of its primaries after the school was put in special measures.

Ofsted’s inspection report found Academies Enterprise Trust’s (AET) Offa’s Mead School in Chepstow, Gloucestershire, to be "inadequate" in all areas following an inspection last December.

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National schools commissioner Dominic Herrington and regional schools commissioner Lisa Mannall have issued a letter warning that they are minded to issue a termination notice, which would end the school’s funding agreement and see it moved to a different trust.

They said that among serious concerns were Ofsted’s conclusions that weak teaching and assessment over the last two years has led to significant gaps in pupils’ knowledge, understanding and skills, and that there was a poor culture of safeguarding.

The trust had also been ineffective in supporting improvement, the inspectorate said.

Ofsted’s inspection found the school had limited leadership capacity, too few pupils were well prepared for the next stage of their education and under-achievement was widespread.

In their letter, the commissioners said: “We need to be satisfied that this academy can achieve rapid and sustained improvement. If we are not satisfied this can be achieved, we will consider issuing a Termination Warning Notice. “

They demanded a copy of the school’s post-inspection action plan and evidence of pupil improvement, in particular for those in year 6 and those receiving pupil premium funding.

AET last November lost two schools in Felixstowe after they were rated "inadequate": Felixstowe Academy, and Langer Primary Academy.

It was, however, also given permission to expand its number of primary schools by up to 1,000 pupils this year.

At its peak, AET had 77 academies, but it became one of the most high-profile academy trusts to run into difficulties and had been banned from expanding.

That restriction was lifted after the arrival in 2017 of Julian Drinkall as chief executive.

A statement from Academies Enterprise Trust said: “We’re disappointed by the ‘minded to terminate notice’ letter, which is procedural.

“Offa’s Mead has gone through a challenging few years, but it is clear that this has already started to change. This view is shared by our parents, who told Ofsted that they recognise the improvements that new leaders are making across the school. 

“Everyone at AET is absolutely clear that we need to build on this progress, and we are clear on the significant work that must take place. We have changed the leadership of the school and increased the school support provided by AET.

"Our team has met with senior DfE officials and the national schools commissioner to agree a development plan, which is already being implemented and starting to have an impact.”

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Mark Smulian

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