No faith in United Learning Trust

31st July 2009 at 01:00

There are two existing academy schools in Sheffield. Both are run by the United Learning Trust. As you reported last week, both have now been failed by Ofsted ("Shop assistance in store as troubled sponsor brings in John Lewis manager," July 24).

If they were council-run schools we would be told they had to improve or face the prospect of becoming academies. In the case of Park Academy, featured in your article last week, it had been judged to be making "reasonable progress" before the ULT takeover when it was Waltheof School. Since then, things have clearly gone downhill.

The full Ofsted report on Park Academy has yet to be published. The report on Park Springs lays much of the blame squarely on "failings in senior leadership". ULT has had control of these schools for three years since promising "transformation". How much longer does it get?

Sheffield's current council leaders have, to their credit, announced that as a council they are not interested in pursuing any more academy schemes. They at least seem to understand that the challenges facing inner-city schools require more than a sprinkling of private-sector magic dust. They have also kept to their promise that any schools seeking to become either academies or trusts must first consult parents in a ballot.

Perhaps it is time now to go a step further, and offer parents at these academy schools that have been mismanaged by ULT the chance to vote on whether or not they would like to return to local authority status. Why should they be denied the same chance to consider "all options" that parents at other schools are given?

Ben Morris, Membership secretary, Sheffield NUT.

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