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Troubled academy in special measures twice

Ofsted found every area of provision inadequate at Carlisle school

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Ofsted found every area of provision inadequate at Carlisle school

One of the government's flagship academies has become the first in the country to be placed in special measures for a second time after every area of its provision was judged inadequate by inspectors.

The Richard Rose Central Academy in Carlisle, Cumbria, was heavily criticised by Ofsted after an inspection in January and has been placed in special measures for the second time in a little over four years.

The news comes just a week after the Department for Education revealed it had sent "pre-warning" letters to 15 sponsored academies in the past two years as a result of concerns over their standards and performance.

It also follows revelations made in TES earlier this year that ministers are requesting detailed performance scorecards every six weeks from around 100 secondary academies that they deem to be in danger of falling below the GCSE floor target.

The plight of academies such as Richard Rose Central shows the scale of the challenge faced by the DfE in overseeing the performance of hundreds of schools from Whitehall.

According to the watchdog's report, achievement is poor, teaching is weak and pupil attendance is well below the national average. School governors were also singled out for criticism.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted's chief inspector, this week called for an overhaul of governance across the country, demanding better training and more paid roles for governors.

In a letter to the parents of pupils at Richard Rose Central, the sponsor and chair of governors, property magnate Brian Scowcroft, said that the governing body, while disappointed by the judgement, "fully accepted" Ofsted's findings and was working with officials within the DfE to help turn the academy around.

The academy's trust, the Richard Rose Federation, has now appointed Derek Davies executive principal to work across Richard Rose Central and its sister academy Richard Rose Morton, Mr Scowcroft said.

Ofsted's verdict on the Cumbrian academy is the latest in a long line of misfortunes for the troubled school, which has been beset by problems since it opened in 2008.

It was created by the merger of two others, St Aidan's and North Cumbria Technology College, and became the first state school in the country to be led by someone with no classroom experience.

Peter Noble was appointed chief executive of the Richard Rose Federation in 2008 after a career as a health service manager but was forced out less than two terms later when Richard Rose Central was placed in special measures for the first time.

The Carlisle branch of the NUT described the ongoing problems at the academy as a "tragedy" for the pupils who attend it. "It shows, first and foremost, that the academy model is flawed," Carlisle NUT secretary John Reardon said.

"The school was created against the wishes of the local community from two predecessor schools, which, while they were not without their problems, had the support of the community."

The "pre-warning" letters sent by the DfE are part of moves to deal with underperformance in the academy programme. It emerged that the department has also intervened to change the sponsors of three academies: Unity City Academy in Middlesbrough; Havant Academy in Hampshire; and North Shore Academy in Stockton-on-Tees.

A fourth sponsor is expected to lose sole control over its school imminently with the appointment of a co-sponsor, although it is understood that this is not related to the situation at Richard Rose Central.

The majority of the academies identified by the department as underperforming were established under the previous government and have funding agreements that make it difficult for officials to impose changes. These agreements have now been altered to allow direct intervention from the secretary of state, and those failing to reach high enough standards are at risk of having their sponsors removed.

A DfE spokesperson said that talks were ongoing with the Richard Rose Federation, which is supported by the University of Cumbria, about how to give pupils a "first-class education". "This school's performance has not been good enough for a long time," the spokesman said.

"Ofsted has now judged that the academy should be placed into special measures. We will not tolerate underperformance in any school, be it a local authority school or an academy."

Under pressure

3 academies have had their sponsors changed.

15 have received "pre-warning" letters in the past two years.

23 principals have been replaced at underperforming academies.

604 academies have sponsors.

2,015 schools have converted to academy status.

Photo credit: Lorne CampbellGuzelian

Original headline: Troubled academy is first to be placed in special measures twice

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