Inspiration Trust, the multi-academy trust (MAT) linked to schools minister Lord Agnew, has received a letter saying the Department for Education is ‘minded to terminate’ the trust’s funding for Great Yarmouth Primary Academy. The school was placed in special measures after fsted visited on 28-29 November last year.
Th Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) for East of England and North East London, Sue Baldwin, was told of the inadequate inspection on 14 February, ten days before the report appeared on Ofsted’s website. She sent out her ‘minded to terminate’ letter on 13 March.
This swift action suggests RSCs are acting more quickly, perhaps too hastily, when academies are judged inadequate. It was sixteen months before Cuckoo Hall Academy Trust received its warning letter about Cuckoo Hall Primary Academy - it had been given a one-year reprieve while 'monitoring' took place. Now it appears RSCs are sending out ‘minded to terminate’ letters within weeks of being informed of an inadequate judgement.
Inspiration Trust ‘strongly refutes’ the inspection report. But the statement by Inspiration’s CEO, Dame Rachel de Souza, contained errors about pupils’ outcomes ‘year on year’. And it is only now that the trust has admitted the predecessor school was not inadequate as claimed by national newspapers in 2014 and in Inspiration Trust accounts but was actually satisfactory (see here, scroll down). However strongly Inspiration attacked the report, the RSC seems not to have been swayed.
This warning letter to a trust running a school once named as an example for other schools to follow is likely to be embarrassing for schools minister Lord Agnew. His responsibilities as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System include academies and MATs, school improvement and intervention in underperforming schools.
Footnote: Lord Agnew's continued involvement with Inspiration causes questions about conflict of interest. It also raises questions about the wisdom of allowing people heavily involved with an academy trust to become ministers in the DfE.