Another academy chain has been heavily criticised by Ofsted, after inspectors found a number of its schools were failing to provide pupils with a satisfactory education.
The watchdog has written to the School Partnership Trust Academies (SPTA), warning that it has too many under-performing schools that have been in this position for too long.
SPTA is the third chain to come in for criticism by Ofsted, with critical letters recently sent to both the Kemnal Academies Trust and the E-ACT Trust.
A further report on the biggest chain in the country, the Academies Enterprise Trust (AET), which was last year banned from expansion due to concerns about its schools’ performance, is expected to be published tomorrow. AET’s ban has now been lifted, but concerns around its provision still remain.
Inspectors visited six of the SPTA’s 42 academies last month and found that four were judged to require improvement, with one rated inadequate and another good. Of the four schools requiring improvement, two had improved from inadequate since their last inspection.
However Ofsted said it had found "key weaknesses" across several of the schools. These included teaching that was not consistently good, weaknesses in provision for the brightest pupils and those with special educational needs (SEN), and school governors who did not have the expertise to challenge senior staff about shortcomings in teaching and learning.
Inspectors also identified "low standards at the end of Key Stage 2 in reading, writing and mathematics meaning that too many pupils are poorly prepared for secondary school".
"Five out of the six academies are not providing a good quality of education," writes Nick Hudson, Ofsted's regional director for the North East, Yorkshire and Humber, in a letter to the chain.
"In one academy, SPTA has failed to tackle significant weaknesses in leadership and management, which have declined to inadequate.
"The inspections of SPTA academies since January 2014 show that the percentage of good and better schools is significantly below that seen nationally.
"More positively, it is encouraging that two previously inadequate schools have improved. Also, the percentage of schools showing improvement since the last inspection is higher than found nationally and this gives some cause for optimism."
The letter concludes that there is some evidence of school improvement, but that the quality and impact of school governing is "variable".
Further concerns are expressed about the "depth and accuracy" of SPTA's analysis of data showing how well pupils were progressing, and the contribution this has to improving schools quickly.
"Above all, there are too many underperforming academies which have remained in this position for too long," the letter warns.
Earlier this month, the inspectorate warned that an "overwhelming" proportion of pupils attending some of the Kemnal Academies Trust schools were not getting a decent education. In a highly critical letter to the trust, the watchdog said that while the trust was getting better at supporting its schools, in many cases this had come too late.
In March, Ofsted sent a similar letter to the E-ACT Trust, warning that it had failed to take effective action to improve standards in many of its schools.
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