Ipswich’s academies will be turned around, say government education bosses

Suffolk New Academy

Suffolk New Academy - Credit: Lucy taylor

The Government insists action is being taken to turn around Ipswich’s struggling academies in the wake of poor exam results and Ofsted criticism.

Ipswich Academy.

Ipswich Academy. - Credit: Su Anderson

The state of education at Ipswich Academy (formerly Holywells High) and Suffolk New Academy (Chantry High), has led to the Department for Education changing the school sponsors.

The headteachers at both schools have also changed in the last six months, while both have been placed into special measures by Ofsted this year.

The DfE claims “decisive” action on under-performance would help raise standards – and that academy status, which has taken schools out of Suffolk County Council control, means they will face more robust scrutiny.

But last night, David Ellesmere, Ipswich Borough Council leader, said: “I do not think academies are the solution to all problems in Ipswich.

Outgoing principal Samantha Penn at Ormiston Endeavour Academy in Ipswich, formerly Thurleston High

Outgoing principal Samantha Penn at Ormiston Endeavour Academy in Ipswich, formerly Thurleston High School

“The government needs to focus less on badges of the schools and more on the quality of what is going on inside them.”

A DfE spokesman said: “Ipswich Academy and Suffolk New Academy are in special measures – and we are looking to appoint new, high-quality sponsors.

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“Academy trusts operate under a strict system of oversight and accountability which is more robust than in council-run schools. This means any issues are identified and that we can take swift action.”

Suffolk New Academy had a better Ofsted rating, “satisfactory”, when it was called Chantry High and judged in 2010.

Although it is now in special measures its new principal Craig D’Cunha says it will only get “better and better”.

The school’s outgoing sponsor New Academies Trust, run by Suffolk New College, is being replaced by the Active Learning Trust.

Last week the Star revealed the DfE had removed Ipswich Academy’s sponsor the Learning Schools Trust. The changes, affecting the trust and executive principal Pamela Hutchison, will come into effect from September.

Steve Bolingbroke, chief executive of the Learning Schools Trust, said: “We had a funding agreement with DfE who handed us the school and asked us to run it. From the school becoming an academy it gave it a new building and a move from the previous site.

“We now have a £15-16million new building here which the school only got because we agreed to sponsor it and part of the arrangement was to have the capital money to do that.”

Ormiston Endeavour Academy

Ormiston Endeavour Academy, formerly Thurleston High School, currently has a “requires improvement” grade – and its latest Ofsted report is expected shortly.

A DfE spokesman said Ormiston Academies Trust, which runs the academy, was aware it needs to “rapidly improve performance”.

Last week the academy announced its headteacher, Samantha Penn, was moving to Norfolk County Council. Christine Woods will be the new principal from Easter.

A spokeswoman for Ormiston Endeavour Academy said she was “confident” Ms Woods would drive forward “further improvements” at the school.

“Since Ormiston Academies Trust (OAT) began supporting Ormiston Endeavour Academy, the school has been receiving high-quality support from the trust to raise standards, and improve teaching and leadership.

“Specifically, the school has been benefiting from the support of a National Leader of Education through OAT, and this has included developing the senior leadership team, while the school governors have also been receiving training.

“We have an excellent staff team who will be led by an incoming principal who has a wealth of experience and expertise.

“OAT has an outstanding record of raising standards across its schools, providing access to additional support which may not always be accessible for local authority controlled schools.”