Ofsted has told a controversial multi-academy trust that it needs to keep reducing its high number of fixed-term exclusions and that behaviour is not consistently good in some of its schools.
A trust-level inspection of Outwood Grange Academies Trust (OGAT) found although the use of fixed-term exclusions had fallen following changes to its approach to pupil behaviour, the numbers still remained "well above average" across its secondary schools.
Ofsted’s summary evaluations of multi-academy trusts do not give a MAT an overall inspection grade.
But the inspectorate's new report into OGAT is mainly positive and praises its work in raising standards, supporting staff, the leadership of its schools and the development of its curriculum and financial planning.
However one of Ofsted’s recommendations is that OGAT “continue to improve pupils’ behaviour so that the proportion of fixed-term exclusions further reduces across the Trust’s secondary schools”.
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Today's findings follow scrutiny around OGAT's approach to behaviour, which has seen a judicial review launched against its use of a consequences room and claims that it used a controversial discipline strategy known as “flattening the grass.”
OGAT runs 31 schools across the North and Midlands and has been praised by ministers for raising standards.
The inspectorate’s evaluation of OGAT praises the trust’s leaders for “strong and principled leadership” and said its school improvement model had led to rapid improvements in many of its schools, including those which “underperformed significantly” before joining the trust.
On behaviour, the report said that the group of inspections of OGAT schools showed that leaders were taking robust action “to tackle behaviour issues and reduce the use of exclusions and the consequences room”.
Outwood said last year that it had decided to “refresh” its behaviour policy before legal action was brought against the trust.
Ofsted’s summary evaluation, published today, said: “Over the past 18 months, significant changes have taken place to improve the behaviour management arrangements across trust schools.
“Evidence from recent inspections and discussions with staff, pupils and academy councils during the onsite visits confirm that pupils’ behaviour is improving as a result of the trust’s work, allowing more pupils to concentrate on their learning.
“However, while fixed-term exclusions have reduced by a notable 29 per cent in the past 12 months, they remain well above average overall across the secondary phase of the Trust.
"Inspections undertaken as part of the first stage of this summary evaluation reflect that leaders are taking robust action to tackle behaviour issues and reduce the use of exclusions and the consequences room.
"Nevertheless, behaviour, while improving, is not consistently good in a number of trust secondary schools.”
Summary evaluations are Ofsted’s new method of reporting on the work of MATs by looking at the way trusts operate after inspecting a group of their schools.
An OGAT spokesperson said: "We were happy to welcome a team of expert inspectors from Ofsted to scrutinise the Trust in a summary evaluation. We are an open and honest Trust and we believe Ofsted’s summary speaks for itself.
“We are delighted that our inclusive practices have been recognised by Ofsted, with inspectors noting our actions to strengthen the systems of support for those who need it most and the improving outcomes for students with SEND.
“We are also delighted with Ofsted noting that we hold the highest ambitions for students and that we do not shy away from accepting a school into the Trust that has struggled either in student achievement or with behaviour and attendance in the past.
"We strongly believe every child deserves the best and it is this belief that leads us to take on difficult schools to improve them and put students first, raise standards and transform lives.”
Ofsted produces summary evaluation reports after publishing inspection reports of a group of schools within a MAT and then discussing its findings with trust leaders.
The inspectorate said OGAT has a high level of consistency across the trust “in aspects of the curriculum, policies, systems and structures adopted by schools.”
It also said staff report that they feel supported and valued. Ofsted says that well-considered professional development provided by the trust, including through the Outwood Institute of Education (IoE), has made a significant contribution to improving the effectiveness of schools.
Inspectors found that leadership was good or better in every school that has been inspected as part of the Trust and that OGAT’s support for finance, human resources and facilities management was described as "highly effective."
It said that the attainment of disadvantaged pupils had improved significantly over time but that there is more to do to ensure “that disadvantaged pupils achieve as well as other pupils nationally.”
Ofsted’s findings were based on the inspection of 10 schools.