Major academy chain given another warning over a 'failing school'

AET told one of its secondary academies will be rebrokered unless results improve

John Roberts

Country's biggest MAT was been warned over the standards at two of its schools

One of the country’s biggest academy chains has been it could lose a failing secondary school – just days after receiving a similar warning over one of its primary schools.  

The national schools commissioner, Dominic Herrington, has told Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) that he will consider issuing a termination warning notice unless Bexleyheath Academy improves.

The warning follows a critical Ofsted inspection, which rated the school as "inadequate" and placed it in special measures.

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Mr Herrington’s letter to AET said: “As the National Schools Commissioner acting on behalf of the Secretary of State, I need to be satisfied that this academy can achieve rapid and sustained improvement.

"If I am not satisfied this can be achieved, I will consider issuing a Termination Warning Notice. If there is no clear improvement at the school in its 2020 educational outcomes or in the next Ofsted Section 5 judgement, our default position will be to remove the school from AET."

The Ofsted report found that the school was failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education.

It said: “Leaders are not demonstrating the capacity to improve the school.  Leaders have not taken essential actions to make improvements. Standards have fallen for several years.”

Inspectors also criticised governance at the school.

The report added: “Governance is ineffective. The school has been part of the Academies Enterprise Trust for the past seven years. During this time, standards have deteriorated and turbulence at senior leadership level has led to the school providing an inadequate education."

However, the report noted that the trust had increased support to the school over the past 12 months, including the deployment of a new executive principal at the beginning of the 2018-19 academic year.

Ofsted said there was also a newly constituted governance board in place, which includes principals from other schools in the trust.

An AET spokesperson said: "

A spokesperson for AET said: “We were disappointed to receive the “minded to terminate notice” letter from the DfE for Bexleyheath Academy.

"These notices are procedural and we have every confidence that we are able to make the changes that are needed at the academy. With this in mind, we appointed David Moody earlier in the year as our Executive Director overseeing our five London academies.

 “David has joined us from Harris, where he established an impressive track record in turning around failing schools. As the Principal of Harris Academy Battersea, he transformed the school from being “inadequate” to not only “outstanding”, but it is now one of the best schools in the country. David will be playing a central role in driving rapid improvement at Bexleyheath, so that we are able to deliver on our promise of an education that helps young people go on to lead remarkable lives."

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.

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.

AET has now received two warnings about standards in its schools from the Department for Education in a matter of days.

Last week, it was told it could be stripped of one of its primaries after the school was put in special measures.

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

Mr Herrington and regional schools commissioner Lisa Mannall issued a letter warning that they are minded to issue a termination warning notice, which could 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.

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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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