Friday, 17 February 2012

Academy in Special Measures-Accountabilty deficit? Question at Full Council

I put a question down at Full Council last night on Birkdale High Scool. The answer to it raised further concerns about the Chair of Governors. it is reproduced below (my italics etc). Fuller details and a link to the report can be found here

I have contacted our MP about this issue.

Mine was the third question on the order paper. I shall comment further on this matter. Can any let me know if they have an example of a school going from Good to Special measures and the fate of the Chair of Governors and Headteacher?

(3) Question from Councillor Brodie-Browne to the Cabinet Member -

Children, Schools and Families - (Councillor Moncur)



“Many Southport residents have become alarmed by reports that



Birkdale High School has been put into ‘special measures’ following an



Ofsted inspection. Can the Cabinet Member report on any meetings



he or the Council’s senior staff have had with the Chair of Governors or

Headteacher?”



Response:



“As members will be aware Birkdale High School converted to an

academy in August 2011. As part of the process the Local Authority

were instructed by the Secretary of State to cease maintaining the

school.



Birkdale was inspected by Ofsted on 12/13 December 2011 and as a

result of that inspection was placed in special measures (the lowest

category in which some 9% of secondary schools nationally sit). Whilst

the Local Authority have no statutory role in respect of academies it

was felt that we had a moral obligation to the pupils in the school and

immediately the Council became aware of the inspection result senior



Officers contacted the Chair of Governors to offer support if it was



needed and this was followed up in writing, on behalf of the Cabinet



Member, on 15 December. This support was offered on the basis of



our recent track record with St Wilfrid's, where the team assembled by



the Local Authority moved the school out of special measures in the



space of four terms (virtually unheard of). The Chair of Governors



declined to take up the offer at that time.





Statutory responsibility for intervention in failing academies rests with

the Secretary of State and senior Officers contacted the DfE on 18

January to enquire as to their plans and to offer support from the Local

Authority, based on our recent track record, if it was needed. The local



Authority was contacted by the Department for Education (DfE) on 8



February explaining that they had received a copy of Birkdale’s action



plans which were being evaluated, and would be meeting with the



academy within the next couple of weeks but stating that the Head



Teacher was unaware of Sefton’s offer of support. The Strategic

Director immediately wrote to the Chair of Governors to reiterate that

support from the Local Authority was available if required. The Chair of

Governors responded to say the original offer had been discussed with

the Head Teacher and they had decided to enlist support from another

local authority (which we understand to be Liverpool).



The DfE have been asked to keep Sefton up to date with progress.”

Councillor Brodie-Browne gave advance notice of the following

supplementary question to the Cabinet Member:



“What have we put in place for the schools that have not opted out, to

support them through the new Ofsted inspection regime?”



Response:



“The new Ofsted inspection framework came into effect on 2 January

2012 (Birkdale High School was inspected under the old framework).

In order to prepare schools for the new framework, a series of training

events have been held for school leaders and governors. Schools

performance is monitored by the Local Authority and school specific

targeted support is provided for schools as required. Support for all

maintained schools is provided in the run up to an inspection, during

the inspection and as part of any follow-up action required.



As colleagues may be aware, the new Ofsted Chief Inspector took up

post in January and has already indicated that he will revise the

inspection framework. Officers will ensure that maintained schools are

kept up to date with any changes, with specific support available for

individual schools.”

I know that concern is very widespread on this issue. Either Ofsted have got it badly wrong-in which case the school need to show compelling evidence of that -or else the Leadership of the school are in a very difficult position. 

I genuinely fail to see how the school can be turned around if key players do not believe that there is a problem. I have sight of a letter sent to the Chief Exec which asks many of the same questions:

If this had been a Community School we would have been made aware of the position of the School and the subsequent plans needed to address its problems.  There would have been a mutuality amongst all parties to ensure the best outcome for pupils and staff. And yet here we have a failing school within the Authority acting like a secret cabal and ostrich like in its acknowledgement of failure.

If there are those in Senior positions who think that all they have to do is to keep their heads down and all this will go away and that nothing much needs to change they are mistaken. Unless the school do more than signal that Ofsted are incompetent and wrong but show some robust evidence to support their stance the pupils will be the losers. 

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