The school “jumped before it was pushed,” admits governor of community school faced with academy conversion

Janet Downs's picture
Hockwold Primary School and Methwold High School in Norfolk amalgamated in September 2011 to become the all-through Hockwold and Methwold Community School. In 2009 Ofsted judged both predecessor schools as satisfactory. In February 2011 an Ofsted monitoring team found Maths teaching at the High School was good and noted that “10 students have progressed to mathematics degree courses in higher education.”

In February 2012, barely a term after amalgamation, Ofsted judged the school inadequate. Inspectors said attainment had fallen since 2009. It is unclear how inspectors came to this conclusion when Year 6 cohorts had been too small in two of the previous three years to make a proper assessment and when the 2011 GCSE results were the same as in 2009. However, Ofsted found serious weaknesses in literacy which the school needed to address.

The Governors decided there was only one option – convert to academy status before it was enforced. The school "jumped before it was pushed,” said the Chair of Governors and admitted they had little choice. Nevertheless, he’s positive about the move as he expected all schools to be academies in five years’ time.

The school’s chosen sponsor is the Academy Transformation Trust (ATT) whose director, Ian Cleland, is outgoing Chief Executive of Ormiston Academies Trust. ATT will take over other Norfolk schools: Swaffham Hamond High School and Queensway Community Junior School whose head wrote, “The Academy Transformation Trust is made up of some excellent companies and charities that will be able to add to our school as it has extensive experience of improving schools. The companies are Gaia Technologies who are a national leader in new technologies, the Andrew Mawson Partnership, a charity who supports community development, and ASPECT who are a leading organisation in supporting school improvement professionals. Added to this there is also Equity Solutions who are a partner organisation to the Trust. This company has extensive experience of building, running and maintaining health and education community facilities.”

ATT was not incorporated until November 2011 so it’s difficult to understand how it could have built up “extensive experience of improving schools” in so short a time. Perhaps the head meant Ormiston Academies Trust registered in August 2009. But a period of two-and-a-half years is still a short time scale in which to “improve schools”. Or perhaps she is referring to Equity Solutions which has been involved in Local Improvement Finance Trust (LIFT) projects since 2004. LIFT is a smaller version of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) which was criticised by the National Audit Office (NAO) in April 2011: “…in the current climate, the use of private finance may not be as suitable for as many projects as it has been in the past.”

In 2010 the NAO warned about potential conflict of interest when academy sponsors provided services. This is being ignored by the present Government.  It has created a situation where more academy chains provide services which their academies will be expected to buy. In return the academies become part of a corporate “brand” which is likely to allow schools less freedom than they had before conversion. John Burn, ex-principal of an academy, warned about this loss of autonomy in his evidence to Parliament.

How many more schools feel they must “jump before they are pushed”? And how many will find they have left their local authority only to be locked into a chain with links to private firms whose first duty is to maximise profits for shareholders?

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Ricky-Tarr's picture
Tue, 10/04/2012 - 16:19

Ofsted found:

Pupils make insufficient progress in English throughout the secondary phase. Although most pupils are keen to learn, they have a fragile grasp of the basics of reading and writing.

Meanwhile, at the primary phase:

After a satisfactory start in the Early Years Foundation Stage, pupils do not make enough progress with their reading because they have insufficient opportunities to develop their skills. Too much teaching is inadequate or only satisfactory. The
curriculum is inadequate because it is failing to provide sufficient opportunities for pupils to improve their reading and writing. There is no whole school literacy policy and the development of pupils’ literacy is inadequate.

On the management side:

The management of teaching and learning is inadequate. The school does not have
an up-to-date literacy policy and the lack of a clear focus on how to improve pupils’ literacy has led to a series of confusing and often ineffective responses from individual teachers. This, coupled with the lack of clear guidance on how to mark pupils’ work, hinders pupils’ progress.

Sadly, all too familiar.... and a clear case made for intervention.

But here is something REALLY unexpected. Could be quite explosive:

The headteacher faces severe difficulties in recruiting new staff and employs a significant number of unqualified teachers. The school provides good professional development for these teachers so that inspectors did not identify any major difference in the quality of lessons taught by qualified and unqualified staff.


Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 10/04/2012 - 17:11

Ricky - I did read the full Ofsted report. Funny how on 2009 both schools were satisfactory, and in 2011 the Maths at the high school was praised and, I forgot to say, in 2011 the modern foreign languages at the primary school was rated good in a visit monitoring this subject.

And don't forget that Ofsted misrepresented the attainment levels as I pointed out. And the school had only just amalgamated - it might have been a little premature to criticise it for not having a whole school policy.

Makes you wonder if Ofsted can be trusted especially when Downhills schools was damned a term after Ofsted said it was improving under good leadership and solid help from the LA.

No doubt Mr Gove will relish the bit about unqualified teachers - no need to go down the Finnish route of offering high quality training both in subject and pedagogy to top graduates (I think you praised that on another thread). Just bung in a enthusiastic untrained personnel, give them some professional development and let them loose.

But I think you're missing the point - the school wasn't given a chance to sort out any problems itself. It decided to convert and chose a sponsor. And that sponsor has only been operating for a few months.

I asked two questions in the last paragraph. It is more important that these questions are answered.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Tue, 10/04/2012 - 18:34

Second question first: many will find they have left their local authority only to be locked into a chain with links to private firms whose first duty is to maximise profits for shareholders?

For many years, former headteachers or former senior staff have hired themselves out freelance (or via private service companies) to local authorities, who then send them in to schools to work on some aspect of school improvement. Because the local authority is the middle-man in this arrangement, no one sees it as involving the private sector. But actually, it does. In future, the middle-man may well be an Academy Trust - an independent charitable body. Sometimes, for reasons of cost and efficiency, groups of these self-employed consultants will club together, share secretarial costs and form a company. Some will find investors to help them scale up their activities and offer their services more widely.

Meanwhile, maintained schools all over the country buy services like virtual learning environments from companies like Pearson. Often these contracts are collectively procured by the LA. In future, the sponsor academy will either buy such services, or even design and build its own.

Frankly, I can't see why one arrangement is okay and the other is 'privatization'. In practice they are essentially the same.

Emotive language is often employed - e.g. your line about a "first duty to maximize profits for shareholders." That sounds very sinister. Yet I am writing this on a Mac, manufactured by Apple, a company whose "first duty is to maximize profits for shareholders." They do this by making excellent machines that their customers like, and by providing excellent after sales services. So, there is nothing necessarily dysfunctional or alarming about that duty. It promotes high performance and good service. I prefer getting my services from companies who work like that to getting them from bureaucracies whose first concern oscillates between the convenience of the institution itself and the desire for power of those who command them.

There are bound to be some shady dealings. Boy, are there some shady dealings now, under the local authorities, some of which are a by-word for corruption and cronyism. But academies will have parent and staff governors, sponsors will have independent trustees (with no financial axes to grind) and the chances that whistleblowers will be attended to are much GREATER than in murky, you-scratch-my-back-I'll-increase-your-budget world of LAs.

How many more schools feel they must “jump before they are pushed”?

Lots. The tipping point has been reached now. It's all up for the LEAs. Councils aren't going to be in the game of direct provision of secondary education for much longer. And pretty soon, in federations, as faith blocs, or singly, the primary landslide will start. Councils know this, haven't the money anyway, and even those who've strongly opposed the idea are now bowing to reality. The more mean-spirited sore-losers are praying for failure. The more decent are hoping for the best.

Welcome to the bright, sunny uplands of the post-bureaucratic age. Things can only get better, as Mr Blair used to say.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Tue, 10/04/2012 - 19:58

And don’t forget that Ofsted misrepresented the attainment levels as I pointed out.
{Inspectors said attainment had fallen since 2009. It is unclear how inspectors came to this conclusion.}

The average of years 2010 and 2011 on the main measure is two points down on 2009.

(50 + 54 = 104 ÷ 2 = 52<54)

I suspect the salience of this is magnified when looking at results relative to the national average.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Tue, 10/04/2012 - 21:02

Blimey there is still someone in the 'Govian bubble'. We've been wondering if there was anyone left over on Linkedin.

"The tipping point has been reached now. It’s all up for the LEAs. Councils aren’t going to be in the game of direct provision of secondary education for much longer. And pretty soon, in federations, as faith blocs, or singly, the primary landslide will start. Councils know this, haven’t the money anyway, and even those who’ve strongly opposed the idea are now bowing to reality. The more mean-spirited sore-losers are praying for failure. The more decent are hoping for the best."

Don't be ridiculous. People in the the real world are busy trying to puzzle out where the Portakabins are going to have to go. This does not make them mean-spirited sore-losers who are praying for failure Ricky. It just means they think it's not a good idea for Michael Gove to be dealing directly with 20,000 very angry mums this September. Don't worry - they are trying to work out how shoving more Portakabins in here there and everywhere they will fit can be spun as being 'free size free schools' - especially if they shove them in the yards of the schools in posher areas. There are all sorts of really cool Portakabins these days - parents will think they're great.

Are you suggesting it's more decent just to let expect a lot of children to home school in the pursuit of the ideological master plan that contradicts the established theory of the economics of education, the advice of all who've actually planned education and the emerging evidence?

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Tue, 10/04/2012 - 21:05

I wonder how Micheal Gove will cope with the recommendations of the Judical Review of Ofsted? I wonder if he has any idea what they are likely to be? In my experience Ofsted directors systematically and very seriously misrepresent their obligations under the law to anyone who asks so it's possible he has been misled and doesn't understand how serious this is.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Tue, 10/04/2012 - 21:20

Err.... excuse me, Rebecca, but you are not seriously going to try to pin the failure of (predominantly) Labour councils and a Labour government (in office for 13 years) to plan for sufficient primary places for 2012 on Michael Gove, who was only appointed in the summer of 2010?

And before you even mention BSF, do recall that BSF spent on average 3 years and a million quid on consultants before a single brick was laid. So, even if Gove had kept BSF and acted to greenlight a huge primaries building programme on his first day in office, they wouldn't have been started until next year.

In Lambeth, where there is a desperate need for more primary places - and more primary schools - the Labour council has just sold off the last two vacant buildings for educational use to be turned into luxury flats. That makes, I think, eight school sites sold off to developers when they should have been turned into much needed primaries.

You really can't blame Gove for that.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Tue, 10/04/2012 - 22:39

Interesting points you have raised about grading.

Looking at the new framework document, it looks as if they saw you coming. There is an explicit justification under sections 117(1) and 119(1) of the Education and Inspections Act 2006, which imposes a statutory obligation to run inspections that promote improvement. In the framework document they say grading promotes improvement by:

raising expectations through criteria and grade descriptors that illustrate the standards of performance and effectiveness expected of schools
offering a sharp challenge and the impetus to act where improvement is needed
clearly identifying strengths and weaknesses

There's also mention of the requirement of clarity for parents, the SoS and Parliament.

Interestingly, the same act imposes an obligation to take account of subsequent developments in inspection and regulation, so you might create work for some lawyers there.

In the end though it won't probably be a question of whether inspections would be better if Hampton principles were applied, but whether Ofsted has acted reasonably in deciding it does need to grade. Which is a different issue.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Tue, 10/04/2012 - 21:54

I don't think the mums who can't get their four-year-olds into schools this September will be blaming the Labour government in power 11 years before their children were born. No Ricky.

I've always been highly critical of Labour Ricky but it's Gove, not them, who'll carry the blame for this one and rightly so. These kids are only four and he has spent the last two years opening secondary school - where we have decreasing numbers, rather than primary schools where we have rapidly increasing numbers.

This one is all on him. But, as I've said, there are plenty of companies around who can put up Portakabins for September and call them 'Free Size Free Schools' so there's no need for a crisis. Here in Cockermouth we built a complete hospital form portakabins in a week after the floods. It was incredible!

Of course he could have blamed the LAs had he left them with any power to avoid this.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Tue, 10/04/2012 - 23:14

It is a statutory duty of most inspection and regulatory bodies to promote improvement Ricky. When the best practices regarding how this should be achieved were reviewed by Hampton it was concluded it was by requiring organisation to conform with high quality practices in continuous improvement. For an organisation not to be robustly involved in such processes would be a cause for protection.

The Hampton principles also clearly established the principle that it was not acceptable for inspectors to describe categories of quality of provision as this has been proven to militate against innovation and healthy diversity, to substantially compromise regulators' abilities in reporting to government regarding what's actually going in their industry (as they look for and people show them high quality provision in the previously defined categories rather than what's actually going on) and to be unnecessary for our best regulators to very effectively drive quality improvement.

Ofsted were put under this law in October 2008 and, under the last government, were working towards implement it (it seemed). Then everything changed. Many of the current directors and employees at Ofsted clearly would not be capable of running and working in an Ofsted which employed the same standards and principles as our best regulators and it's my impression that they have simply systematically misled Mr Gove regarding the law. I've been on the receiving end of their obfuscating guff. It's highly plausible.

"In the end though it won’t probably be a question of whether inspections would be better if Hampton principles were applied, but whether Ofsted has acted reasonably in deciding it does need to grade. Which is a different issue."

It sounds to me, Ricky, like the Judicial Review will rapidly need to become an Independent Commission and that at this point not just the letter of the law but also the way it is interpreted by the other parties obliged to it will be scrutinised so Ofsted will have to come into line. It is difficult to describe quite how much more intelligent, effective and less counter-productive an Ofsted which stuck to these standards would be unless you've actually experienced Ofsted at its worst, seen the quality of what goes on regarding quality improvement and inspection in other areas of society and become aware of the variety of high quality teaching which has disappeared from mainstream state education because it is not Ofstedproof.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 11/04/2012 - 08:19

Look while we're on this topic I really should try to ram home how important this is.

Primary school years are such important years for parents and children together. By secondary school you are more chauffeur than part of your child. When your child starts school is the time that you grow up a great deal as a parent. It's really the time when you become 'the grown ups of the community' stepping up from being the younger generation who have just become parents to being the responsible generation who raise the community's children and care for their parents as they age.

During reception class there are lots of parties at play centers where the parents really get to know each other and the first time parents learn so much from the experienced one and make the friends and contacts who will stay with them for life if they do not move.

It is absolutely essential that Mr Gove gets on the case with the Portakabins RIGHT NOW. It's summer term next week for goodness sake. It can be done and the consequences if it is not done will be devastating for the children and parents affected and will rightly be horrendous for him too because it will be his fault if it not done.

A crack team using the right data, Google earth and a telephone to phone schools could have a plan in place in a few weeks which could realistically be actioned by September. If it's not done now there will not be time to for schools to plan and appoint staff or for the buildings to go in.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Wed, 11/04/2012 - 08:58


You are simply wrong on this. Local Authorities are still responsible for providing sufficient primary school places. Gove's part in it is to give them the money. He has. In December 2010 he allocated £800m for new places, then came the James review, then came an extra £500m.

London (and other) LAs had been badgering Labour about this coming crisis since 2008. What did they do? They constructed £35m a pop vanity projects for Gordon Brown's legacy.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 11/04/2012 - 10:00

That's okay then Ricky. How do LAs open new schools these days? I thought they couldn't?

K Campbell's picture
Tue, 10/04/2012 - 18:32


Do you know if there has been a study that compares the OFSTED judgements of schools with the same perform levels and have the same ability intake?

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Tue, 10/04/2012 - 20:52

If there was it would show that the exam results of such schools are strongly correlated with their income per child (adjusted for London Weighting and the small schools effect).

K Campbell's picture
Tue, 10/04/2012 - 21:22

I looked at some of the Harris academies results as they are all rated as either outstanding or good. But if you look outside of the headline GCSE Englsh and Maths, and a vocational subject their performance is dire.

Now there other schools that have a much better around figures in all subjects, but do not score as highly in either GCSE maths and/ or English, and they are rated as either satisfactory or good.

Given that all things are running about same, e.g. leadership, surely these schools should have cause for complaint against OFSTED?

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Tue, 10/04/2012 - 21:58

Are you looking for the part of the law which required Ofsted to be consistent K?
Here it is:
and here's the order which obligated Ofsted to this law:
(point 17)

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 11/04/2012 - 12:29

The discussion about Ofsted has diverted attention from the main thrust of the post which was about enforced conversion (or in this case jumping before being pushed), whether an academy chain can really say that it has had experience of turning round underperforming school when it's only be in existence since November 2011, and the possible conflict of interest when the academy chain has links with a company which stands to gain financially from the sponsorship (see NAO warnings and link in oroginal post).

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 11/04/2012 - 12:38

Sorry Janet.

Have you seen this yet?

It describes precisely the experience many good schools are having with Ofsted and is more directly relevant to your original post I think?

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 11/04/2012 - 13:04

This may or may not be relevant but very shortly after I started to post on Ofsted's behaviour I was subject to a very substantial and organised campaign of abuse which included very obvious and deliberate attempts to discredit me in very distressing ways (yes of course I can provide the evidence for this).

When I wrote on my NCETM blog about this abuse ( and its patterns I was immediately deleted, blocked from writing and fired from my main source of income. My union eventually did not pursue the case because although it was clear, even with an outright win my contract was constructed in such a way that I would not get any compensation so they could not pursue it under their statues because there was no gain.

So I got MPs to watch what was going on in cyberspace as sensitive topics were being systematically deleted from the TES forum, before TES banned me completely.

The very obvious reason why Ofsted would resist coherent reform would be that the reforms other regulators have implemented are designed with the explicit aim that regulators should not be able to use methodologies which allow regulators to pursue their own interests rather than considering those of the customers of and health of the organisations they regulate.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Wed, 11/04/2012 - 15:11


The Ormiston Academies Trust runs, I think, 18 academies.
Cleland was CEO. OAT claim that "this year, the Ormiston family of academies achieved an increase of 16% across the board on their 5A*-C GCSE results, including English and maths." They also boast that:

All Ormiston academies have:

Virtually eliminated fixed term exclusions.
Attendance figures showing significant improvement with the majority being above the national average.
Five A*-C, with English and mathematics results well above the National Challenge threshold of 30%.
Five or more A*-C performance above national averages.

I don't know whether - apart from the similar name and the fact that Cleland is a director of both - ATT has any formal connection with the education charity, Transformation Trust, but that has an amazing array of grandees on its board, including Lord Adonis and Tim Brighouse. At the very least, it shows Cleland has a pretty impressive professional network.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 11/04/2012 - 16:35

The Schools Performance tables give a more accurate picture. I'm surprised you didn't check instead of relying on OAT. Ormiston has 13 academies listed in the Performance Tables. Only 7 of these had GCSE results in 2011 and only 4 had results in both 2010 and 2011. I'm unsure where the 16% increase comes from especially as one of the academies had a fall in GCSE results. There may have been a very good reason for this fall - I don't like knocking schools on the basis of raw exam results. However, when chains, politicians, media et al boast about increase in raw exam grades I think it's legitimate to point out when the figures given are misleading.

The results were:

Ormiston Bushfield 2011 50% 2010 40%
Orimston Boligbroke 2011 48%
Ormiston Park 2011 40% 2010 39%
Ormiston Sandwell 2011 42% 2010 50%
Ormiston Sir Stanley Matthews 2011 39%
Ormiston Venture 2011 46%
Ormiston Victory 2011 64%

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 12/04/2012 - 12:49


When you wrote on your own blog about how a hit-squad of Zionist cyberwarriors had knocked out the computer on your kitchen table to punish you for posting comments sympathetic to the Palestinian cause on a TED forum, I confess it did lead me to somewhat discount what you wrote here.

Anyone who blames Mossad when their computer goes on the blink could
blame ANYTHING on Michael Gove, even the primary places crisis.

Now, it appears, the conspiracy grows wider, encompassing TED moderators, the NCETM, perhaps Ofsted itself and even..... TES, which I'd need some persuading is part of the Zionist-Govian-Neocon complex.

Are you absolutely sure all these guys are out to silence you, or could it be you said something defamatory that tripped an automated version of m'learned friend?

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Wed, 11/04/2012 - 18:24

I have checked now.

I was right. There are 18.

Our academies

We are a multiple academy sponsor, currently working with 18 academies across the UK:

Gateway Academy, Thurrock
George Salter Collegiate Academy, Sandwell
Shelfield Community Academy, Walsall
Ormiston Park Academy, Thurrock
Ormiston Bushfield Academy, Peterborough
Ormiston Sandwell Community Academy, Sandwell
Ormiston Bolingbroke Academy, Runcorn; co-sponsored by University of Chester
Ormiston Sir Stanley Matthews Academy, Stoke
Ormiston Venture Academy, Great Yarmouth
Ormiston Victory Academy, Norwich
BOA (Birmingham Ormiston Academy) - a brand new academy for the creative,
digital and performing arts, co-sponsored by Birmingham City University
Ormiston Maritime Academy, Grimsby
Ormiston Enterprise Academy, Ilkeston
The Ormiston Ilkeston Academy, Ilkeston
Ormiston Rivers Academy, Burnham-on-Crouch
Ormiston Horizon Academy, Stoke
Ormiston Forge Academy, Sandwell
Ormiston Endeavour Academy, Ipswich

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 12/04/2012 - 09:56


I think you are being too quick to point the finger and accuse Ormiston of misrepresenting the data without doing any serious verification. Not only does your analysis above leave out some Ormiston schools that did have results for both years e.g. :

Gateway Academy 2010 42% 2011 56%

but also misses the obvious fact that some of their schools are recent academy converters. That means the 2010 results will be under the school’s former name For instance, Ormiston Venture Academy used to be known as Oriel Specialist Mathematics and Computing College. The relevant comparison is therefore:

Oriel (2010) 36%; Venture (2011) 46%.

Similarly, Ormiston Victory used to be known as Costessey High.

Costessey (2010) 38%; Ormiston Victory (2011) 65%

That one represents an increase of 27 points, which is an improvement of 71% on the 2010 result!

If you look at their longer term figures, there is a marked pattern of improvement. Gateway has gone from 13% in 2007 to 56% in 2011.
Ormiston Bushfield has gone from 15% in 2008 to 50% in 2011.

I’m confident that you will find their 16% claim stands up.

I must say I'm a bit shocked by your approach so far. I had come to regard you as an extremely diligent in pursuit of the facts.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 12/04/2012 - 13:49


No sooner had I posted the above, but my security software flashed up a page telling me that my computer was being attacked by someone trying to plant malware!

Maybe it's Islamic Jihad?.... or possibly the Anti-Academies Alliance?

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 12/04/2012 - 17:44

Why on earth are you trying to misrepresent what I said on my blog Ricky? How strange!

What I said was that a week into a discussion about Israel and Palestine in which I was trying to facilitate open discussion, my computer crashed in a very unusual way. When I asked a friend who's an expert in cyberwarfare about this crash he immediately spotted it as being one associated with cyberwarfare. To test out whether it was or not he suggested I contact any other participants in the thread who were not pro-Israel lobby and asked them if they'd had the same problem. There was one - who I'd never met before who lived in the US. When I got in touch with him he had indeeed had a very serious problem with his computer at the same time which he'd been unable to fix and had cost him a great deal of money. All this is, of course, completely verifiable. If you find me on, which is very easy, I can point you to the participants in the conversation who can verify the issues as they appeared during the converstion. It did get more complex than that as another participant invented a convoluted story about how it had not been cyberwarfare - it has been to do with viruses attached to Youtube videos but that story fell apart on minor probing. It had been completely invented! Strange old world.

You're welcome to meet my friend and inspect the computer if you want Ricky! :-) I also have email copies of a great deal of that conversation so you can analyse them if you like.

Aren't you aware that that the pro-Israeli lobby has a multi-billion dollar budget for cyberwarfare Ricky? It's widely reported and discussed.

I'm surprised you said I'd accused Mossad. Why did you say that? If it was cyberwarfare (and all I do is tell you what happened to me - I don't make accusations because I don't know what's going on) then it's highly unlikely to have been Mossad.

I've already written on this forum about how the vast majority of apparent corruption is actually just ignorance, fear and weak leadership and that remains my opinion.

Why do you think Ofsted employs very highly paid directors who know nothing about education or inspection and regulation Ricky and who systematically obfuscate and misrepresent Ofsted's legal obligations? I'm genuinely open to your suggestions.

Sorry for the intrusion Janet.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 12/04/2012 - 09:38

Thanks, Ricky, I suspected there may be more academies sponsored by Ormiston which didn't boast the brand name. The five extra academies you list include two which have only just opened (Ormiston Forge, 1/1/12, and BOA, a 14-19 academy opened on 1/9/11). Neither of these could have contributed to the 2011 GCSE results wich Ormiston boasted about.

That left three:

Gateway Academy Thurrock (GCSE improvement impressive, from 17% in 2008 to 56% in 2011 although the latter was heavily dependent on equivalents). Gateway Academy was opened in Sept 2006 from the Gateway Community College (quoted in TES as an "improving school" with "ambitious vision" which raises the question as to why it needed to close). It was sponsored by Ormiston Trust.

George Salter Academy opened Sept 2007 sponsored by Ormiston Trust. Its GCSE results:

2011 38% 2010 39% 2009 39% 2008 34%

Shelfield Community Academy opened Sept 2009. GCSE results:

2011 45% 2010 44% 2009 30% (must have been predecessor school)

Ormiston Trust was set up 1969 to support children and families with grants. It sponsored its first academy in 2006. Only one of the academies sponsored by Ormiston Trust/Ormiston Academies Trust is six years old. Whether this is "extensive experience" of improving schools is arguable.

The National Challenge threshold quoted in your original post is outdated. The benchmark is now 35% of pupils expected to achieve 5+ GCSEs (or equiv) including Maths and English. And the national GCSE average in 2011 was 58%-59% (sources vary as to exact number). Only two of Ormiston academies achieved above the national average contrary to the quote above.

References: School Performance Tables, Edubase

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 12/04/2012 - 10:02


Our comments crossed.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 12/04/2012 - 13:25

Ricky - the figures actually raise a serious point about comparisons with predecessor schools. How many years, if any, should pass before a change in results can be ascribed to the new management? If a school becomes an academy in September, should responsibility for results of the following summer's GCSEs be borne by the academy? The academy might be keen to do so if results were higher than those of the predecessor school but the pupils taking the exam would have spent most of the secondary school life in the predecessor school. Perhaps improvements had already been made which led to the increased results. Improvements had been made at Gateway Community College before it became a sponsored academy if the TES article (linked above) is to be believed.*

However, if results fall, then an academy may say they need more time for changes to take effect (which is fair enough, but if academies boast success after only one year they can hardly blame people for saying they've failed if results go down in the same time scale - they can't have it both ways).

It should also be remembered that any rate of improvement is larger if measured from a low base. So if the results in an academy went up from 20% to 30% in a year they could claim a 50% improvement rate. A neighbouring school might also raise its results by 10%, but from 60% to 70%. The latter would not be an improvement rate of 50%. This point was made by Channel 4 FactCheck when they looked at academies and their results in January 2012.

*I tried to find the Ofsted report for Gateway Community College before conversion on Ofsted's website but couldn't find it even when I typed in the College's Unique Reference Number (URN). I've emailed Ofsted and asked how I can access a copy but have had no reply yet.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 12/04/2012 - 14:01

Ricky - perhaps it's George Smiley: "Before we begin, Ricki: do I understand correctly that no one at the Circus knows you're in England?"

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 12/04/2012 - 14:04

All fair points.

I guess it's a bit like football. As a disinterested (and uninterested) outsider, I'm happy to concede that Arsenal, Man U and Chelsea are all good football teams. But to those involved, it matters a lot which is slightly ahead of the others.

All things considered, it looks as if Ormiston is a force for good, bringing some significant improvements. Perhaps it's the wrong one to be sceptical about. It would be interesting to know if there is a chain that hasn't made a blind bit of difference.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 12/04/2012 - 21:57

Because I'm so concerned about Ricky's misrepresentation of my blog on discussion forums I'll post a link to it here so people can check for themselves:

It's not a political blog. It's purpose is to accumulate some of the experiences I've had on forums and some of the strategies I've used on them to make online conversations productive so that people running them can learn from these experiences and set up robust management and moderation protocols.

I've no idea why Ricky chose to bring it in to this conversation. By his own account he seemed to need a way of writing off what I've been saying here as, judging from correspondence I've had today, my claims have checked out. Haven't they Ricky?

Anyway as I've said if you have any remaining concerns about any aspect of anything I've said I'm really happy for you to check out the evidence. Plenty of real people in education know me and have met me through multiple routes so that shouldn't be hard. I'm also happy to take questions myself in public or in private. I'd like you to be reassured that I am who I say I am and that I'm being absolutely straight with you, unless I'm blindingly obviously being sarcastic, which I will try not to be again.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 12/04/2012 - 22:55

I think the proof that I didn't misrepresent what you said is amply provided by the fact that you have just repeated in a somewhat longer form exactly what I described.

I said you blamed your computer fault on "a hit-squad of Zionist cyberwarriors". You have just written:

"Aren’t you aware that that the pro-Israeli lobby has a multi-billion dollar budget for cyberwarfare Ricky? "

So where's the misrepresentation in that?

You then go on to allege that certain directors of Ofsted are engaged in systematic wrongdoing of a very serious kind - rather confirming my suspicion that what really got you into trouble with TES and had your contributions blitzed by other site moderators wasn't down to the Elders of Zion, Bilderbergers or the Illuminati, but defamations that the site owners haven't the time/money/inclination to get lawyered.


Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 12/04/2012 - 23:26

"my suspicion that what really got you into trouble with TES and had your contributions blitzed by other site moderators wasn’t down to the Elders of Zion, Bilderbergers or the Illuminati, but defamations that the site owners haven’t the time/money/inclination to get lawyered."

What defamations? Why do you think I've been defaming sites? How odd when I can substantiate everything I've said Ricky.

I understand that you have some strong opinions on Israel so I think it's better we leave that topic aside. As part of your opinions you have clear ideas regarding my opinions. Please leave this be Ricky. I don't want to discuss it here. I do intend to write a piece which does express my opinions for Libdem voice when I'm ready and have explored the details of what I'm trying to say. When I've done that you can criticise my opinions (preferably there rather than here). Until then you don't know what they are.

I do accept that it was silly to quote a particular figure for this size of the pro-Israeli cyberwarfare budget and would like to apologise for that mistake.

Sarah's picture
Wed, 11/04/2012 - 12:53

This is in response to Ricky's comments about local authorities providing additional school places (there was no reply button). Whilst local authorities do have a statutory duty to ensure sufficient school places (adequate but not excessive surplus) their ability to do so is directly constrained by central government. 'Basic need' funding which is the capital that allows for new school places is not set at a sufficiently high level for those authorities with large growth - many are having to use most of their capital maintenance funding to prop it up with the consequence that existing schools are falling into disrepair. Schools capital was slashed by up to 80% by this government so local authorities can only deal with the most pressing priorities.

Although Gove has made £800m available he's also spending £600m on free schools which would be far better directed to those places with demographic growth rather than 'parental demand'.

The James Review still (after a consultation which closed in October) hasn't announced what changes are to be made to schools capital beyond this year and local authorities are operating on one year capital allocations, a massive challenge given the lead times for delivering capital projects.

Developers are trying to find ways of reducing their contribution to new schools further squeezing the available capital.

Sure, BSF didn't always address itself to the right things - but at least it was an attempt to have decent school buildings - something this government could learn from.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Wed, 11/04/2012 - 15:52


BSF didn't work By the end of 2008, it was supposed to have rebuilt 200 secondaries. It managed a mere 35. Even with deficit reduction, this government will do better than that.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 11/04/2012 - 16:56

Ricky more than half of my family is in Scotland where each school rebuild has been done on a 10 year lead with full analysis of all regional services related to schools and alternative proposals for integrated facilities being cost analysed and properly consulted over long periods before construction began.

BSF we a poorly managed copy of that. The idea that if you look at one component of the system at a time and let market forces do their work efficiency will improve is utter lunacy.

Sarah's picture
Wed, 11/04/2012 - 18:21

The problem with BSF was that most of the cost was in the first two years with the setting up of the LEP - there is an argument that says that the overall costs would have been significantly lower if the government had stuck with it, ie they cancelled it at just the wrong moment. It was very slow moving, very centralised and very bureaucratic. However, I'm no apologist of BSF. Many local authority areas got no BSF funding at all - and now that it's gone there is almost no chance of major capital to redevelop school buildings unless you are prepared to sign up for yet another PFI scheme (this government's Priority School Building Programme). It's yet to be seen whether this government will do any better with the PSBP than the previous one did with BSF. It's already delayed having promised to announce projects in December and not a whisper yet of which schools will be replaced.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 12/04/2012 - 13:36

The Ofsted website says that if a school is new if will "usually inspected for the first time in their second year. An inspection in the first year is unlikely."

The all-through Hockwold and Methwold Community School was established in September 2011 through amalgamation of two predecessor schools - one primary and one secondary. It was a new school and most of its staff were likely to have had experience in only one of these age ranges. I think, therefore, that it was unfair to have inspected the school barely a term after it began.

A cynic might say that this was deliberate in order to make the school ripe for academy conversion.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Fri, 13/04/2012 - 10:46

Yes, Janet..... a cynic might.

But Ofsted spotted a serious problem with English that the LA had not been able either to prevent or solve and conversion and the help of a sponsor will help put that right. Happy outcome.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 13/04/2012 - 15:42

The 2009 Ofsted reports for both schools did not cite literacy as a problem. The junior school's Ofsted said that both schools had formed a management partnership in January 2009 and this has resulted in a renewed sense of urgency. The joint head of the schools provided good leadership and there was "effective use of time to raise standards of literacy" and "correct emphasis on the development of basic skills." Ofsted expressed concerns about Maths and Science in the junior school but not literacy.

The March 2009 Ofsted for the senior school said it was "rapidly improving" with a number of good features. The head had a "clear vision" and set "challenging targets" which contributed to student progress and higher GCSE results especially in English, Maths and Science. Ofsted judged the curriculum, leadership and management to be good.

The 2012 Ofsted said standards had fallen at both schools but this was not upheld by the GCSE results or the SAT results (see original post for details).

The fact that both schools had been under joint management since 2009 could be interpreted as meaning that the school had combined three years ago and was one school in all but name. However, the formal amalgamation did not take place until September 2011.

Five of the 24 free schools opened in September 2011 were existing schools. If the inspection of Hockwold and Methwold Community school can be justified after barely a term in its new guise, then Ofsted should also inspect some, if not all, of these five free schools sooner rather than later.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Fri, 13/04/2012 - 19:18

Ricky could you give any insight into what this problem Ofsted spotted was? If it wasn't the exam results then what was it?

Ofsted are notoriously bad at understanding and correctly grading the teaching strategies used in small schools (which have multiple year groups in one class at primary and wide spans of attainment in classes at secondary) as very few inspectors are familiar with either type of teaching.

A group of primary heads from top small primary schools worked for many years on the primary curriculum review to ensure it learned from the strengths of small school teaching as well as the strengths of tightly streamed teaching. The reforms agreed were supposed to also underpin a much more intelligent inspection regime for small primaries. They were all completely devastated when their years of work were chucked out overnight by Michael Gove.

So we are stuck with very highly dubious qualities of inspections for small schools at both levels and they are very vulnerable to special measures as one poor cohort triggers it these days and that is more likely to happen with smaller numbers.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Fri, 13/04/2012 - 17:47

I'd give them 4 terms to bed down. But on principle - no quibbles.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Mon, 16/04/2012 - 08:18

The Ofsted report noted that after a strong start in EYFS, literacy ran into the sand in KS1 & 2 and that too many were transitioning to KS3 ill equipped to handle the curriculum.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 16/04/2012 - 08:50

Ricky - look at the numbers. There were about 10 kids in each year. You would need several years of evidence to generate meaningful results.

As I said - very few inspectors - even your most respected are capable of correctly assessing multi-year-group teaching. It looks and feels very different to mass scale teaching. I just can't emphasise to you strongly enough quite how much of a problem this is. Perhaps you could ask Ofsted how many inspectors they have who have taught multi-year-group classes? The problem is not usually that the teaching in multi-year-group primaries is bad it is that inspectors do not understand it and can't inspect it. So if you get one year group with 3 students in who don't achieve level 4 for absolutely clear and understandable reasons your %ages go right down and Ofsted turn up and fail the school.

Do you properly understand what special measure does to schools Ricky?

Do you know about the issues of imploding budgets as students numbers fall.
Do you know about the issues associated with running a coherent mix of courses as students leave?
Do you understand the problems schools have when they can't train or recruit NQTs?
But - far and away most importantly - do you understand what happens to teachers when they operate in a culture of relentless fear where their teaching is continuously assessed by people who do not understand and could not do what those teachers are doing and who never talk to them?

Is special measures a proportionate response to 3 children failing to get level 4 for English? Of course it blooming isn't. This school has the law on its side and it should take Ofsted to court for Judicial Review as Furness Academy has done. But they wouldn't have had the resources, would they.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 13/04/2012 - 15:46

Ricky - re my request for the Ofsted report for the Gateway Community College (predecessor of Gateway Academy, Thurrock). Ofsted has told me:

"If you would like a copy of such an inspection report you should send a written request (this can include email or fax) ensuring you include the following information:

•Your full name
•Contact address (email and/or postal)
•The full name, address and post code of the setting
•The unique reference number (URN) of the setting if known
•The year(s) of the inspection report(s) requested"

Ofsted will then locate the report and send it. If Ofsted cannot, it will explain why.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Fri, 13/04/2012 - 17:42


I expect you had included all that in the original request, but received a robotic form answer because they are so used to dealing with incompetents that they assume everybody is an idiot!

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