'Ultra-strict' Great Yarmouth Charter Academy gets Ofsted OK for safeguarding

Janet Downs's picture

Pupils told inspectors they now feel safe in school

Great Yarmouth Charter Academy (GYCA) became notorious when it opened in September 2017 for saying sick pupils should vomit in a bucket rather than leave lessons.   This advice was later retracted.  Teachers can make a ‘judgement call’.  

GYCA is run by Inspiration Trust whose directors include schools minister Lord Agnew.

Ofsted visited GYCA in February to inspect safeguarding.   They arrived unannounced and spoke to many pupils who said they ‘now feel safe at school’.  Pupils and staff said behaviour had improved significantly since the behaviour policy* was introduced. 

 Inspectors said some parents worried the ban on pupils going to lavatory during lessons would prevent pupils with a medical need from doing so.  GYCA assured inspectors the behaviour policy* allows flexibility in applying this rule.  But the policy* says no such thing.  The rule is blunt:

We never go to the toilet between lessons or in lesson time.

This is not softened by any requirement to be flexible.   The words ‘flexible’ or ‘discretion’ don’t appear in the 14-page document.  The only reference to ‘judgement’ refers to alleged illness.

Exclusion rates too high

The behaviour policy* hasn’t worked with all pupils, however.  ‘The incidence of permanent or temporary exclusion from school, or of internal isolation, though falling, remains too high because the behaviour of a small number of pupils has not improved.’

Inspectors didn’t comment on fall in pupil roll

Warwick Mansell has highlighted the 10% reduction in the number of pupils at GYCA.    He notes Ofsted didn’t comment on this. And TES found 81 pupils had been ‘removed’ from GYCA since in eight months.  

64% of Parent View respondents wouldn’t recommend GYCA

Inspectors asked parents to respond to Ofsted’s Parent View.   77 responses have been received to date.  

59% of respondents strongly agree/agree that GYCA makes sure pupils are well-behaved.  But this doesn’t mean they think pupils were happy.  58% think not.  And 64% would not recommend GYCA to other parents.

Parent View responses should be used with caution, however.  Respondents are a self-selecting group. 

Request for judicial review on GYCA merger dismissed

Parents at Trafalgar College, an Inspiration Trust free school opened in September 2017, requested a judicial review into the proposed merger with GYCA.  This has been dismissed.    Local councillor Mike Smith said he was ‘disappointed for the parents and town of Great Yarmouth which now only has one secondary school’.  And it’s a secondary school which appears to cutting back on curriculum options.   

Secrecy over Lord Agnew’s conflicts of interest

When Inspiration’s Lord Agnew became schools minister, the Department for Education said he was ‘agreeing arrangements…to prevent any conflict of interest between his ministerial role and his charitable interests’.

TES submitted a Freedom of Information request to view this agreement but didn’t receive a reply until after five months.  The DfE turned down the request saying it ‘may invite external scrutiny’.

That’s the point of freedom of information, isn’t it?  

*GYCA behaviour policy downloadable here

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