Ofsted criticises ‘low expectations’ at AET academy chain

Richard Vaughan

The country’s largest academy chain, the Academies Enterprise Trust, is failing to give “too many pupils” a good enough education, the schools watchdog has said.

In a letter published today, Ofsted said it had “concerns” over the performance of individual academies within the chain and added the Trust had not provided effective support to many of its schools.

The letter comes just weeks after Ofsted announced that former AET trustee, David Hoare, had joined the inspectorate as its chair.  

AET has 77 academies under its control, but the inspectorate suggested the chain had expanded too quickly and the performance of too many schools had suffered as a result.

Out of the 12 academies it inspected, Ofsted found that half were not providing a “good” education, with five requiring improvement and one judged to be inadequate. 

In his letter, Ofsted’s chief operating officer Matthew Coffey said “teaching that was not good enough to enable all groups of pupils to make sufficient progress” and that there were “low expectations of what pupils can and should achieve”. 

Back in March, AET was one of a dozen academy chains that was barred by the DfE from taking over any more schools due to concerns of the standard of education they provided.

In Ofsted’s survey of heads working in AET schools, published today, it found that academy leaders were “sceptical” of the trust being able to help them improve to a “good or excellent standard” with many claiming they were left feeling “isolated”. 

AET has fought back, claiming Ofsted’s inspection of 12 schools does “not give the true picture of progress” across its 77 academies. The watchdog has made “errors of fact”, the academy chain said in a statement.

“We have raised a number of issues with Ofsted about their interpretation of the data and potential errors of fact,” it said. “In particular, we are concerned that the letter intended to summarise the 12 targeted inspections places an unfairly negative slant on the more balanced assessments in the reports themselves.

“Many of the academies inspected by Ofsted have a history of under-performance and have been with AET only for a short time. Turning a school around takes time, but we are acting to ensure a rapid and sustained improvement in these academies.”

Exam results at key stage 2, GCSE and A-level had been improving faster on average than other schools, the chain added. 

AET became the latest in line of academy chains to come in for criticism from Ofsted, with similar letters being issued to the Kemnal Academies Trust, E-Act and, most recently, to the School Partnerships Academies Trust in July.

Related stories:

Ofsted criticises another academy chain for 'key weaknesses' in teaching - July 2014

E-Act academy chain condemned by Ofsted for poor standards - March 2014

Ofsted must be granted powers to inspect academy chains, MPs say - November 2013

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Richard Vaughan

Richard has been writing about politics, policy and technology in education for nearly five years after joining TES in 2008. He joined TES from the building press having been a reporter and then later news editor at the Architects’ Journal. Before then he studied at Cardiff University’s school of journalism. Richard can be found tweeting at @richardvaughan1

Find me on Twitter @RichardVaughan1

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