Major shake-up at struggling Ipswich Academy with new sponsor and boss due in September after damning Ofsted report

Ipswich Academy.

Ipswich Academy. - Credit: Su Anderson

A troubled Ipswich academy is to get a new sponsor and principal after the Government ordered a major shake-up, the Ipswich Star can exclusively reveal.

The former secretary of state for education, Michael Gove, took a tour of Ipswich Academy in 2013 be

The former secretary of state for education, Michael Gove, took a tour of Ipswich Academy in 2013 before officially opening the new school building - Credit: Archant

The Department for Education (DfE) has removed Ipswich Academy’s sponsor the Learning Schools Trust. The changes will affect the school, formerly Holywells High School, from September.

Pamela Hutchison, who has been executive principal since September, will also go in a major shake-up of the school which has around 840 students between 11-18.

The academy was placed in special measures following a damning Ofsted inspection last month.

Only 19% of students at the academy achieved five or more A*-C grades including in English and maths last year. The national average is 52.6% and the academy’s 2013 score was 31%.

Last night the chief executive of the trust, Steve Bolingbroke, confirmed the changes would happen but he was not able to reveal who would be the new sponsor.

He said: “We are in a position where we know what’s happening but we were told by the Department for Education not to tell anyone.

“Staff were told last week. They have made the decision to change the sponsor of Ipswich Academy. Previously we had a warning letter and now the decision has been made. We expect the changes to happen from September.

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“Until then we will run the school with our executive principal Pamela Hutchison until such a time as we are replaced.”

The DfE sent a warning letter last July which said that performance at the academy was “unacceptably low”.

Tim Coulson, regional schools commissioner for East of England, said that students’ behaviour and attitudes were “declining” and were acting as a “barrier” to learning and progress.

Teachers were told last week about the changes but parents and pupils have not yet been informed.

The Learning Schools Trust has run Ipswich Academy since 2011. In 2013 it moved into its new £16million building – with the then-education secretary, Michael Gove, present at the opening ceremony.

Mr Bolingbroke said the focus must now be on the pupil’s learning, he added: “Our intention is to carry on delivering the improvements that we have put in place to make sure the pupils get the best results they can.

“We are only interested in the students and getting the best outcomes for them.”

He said a “huge amount” of progress had been made since the DfE letter last year.

A DfE spokeswoman said: “Ipswich Academy has been placed in special measures – and clearly that is not good enough. We are working with the current sponsors, Learning Schools Trust, to ensure that pupils’ learning is not affected while we appoint a new sponsor to drive up standards.”

The trust has three other schools. Twickenham Academy and Hampton Academy, in Sussex, have both got “requires improvement” Ofsted grades. Their other school, Elizabeth Woodville School in Milton Keynes, has a “good” rating.

What is an academy?

Academies were brought in by the last Labour government to raise school standards in deprived areas.

They are schools which are independent from local authority control and are run by a sponsor which could be a charity, education group, college or business.

They are state-funded – with the sponsor signing an agreement with the Department for Education on the minimum standards expected.

Sponsors, like the Learning Schools Trust, run the schools and have more of a say in how it is run than a standard local authority controlled-school.

The Learning Schools Trust is a non-profit, charitable organisation that is sponsored by the Kunskapsskolan group, a Swedish educational organisation.

There are also “academy converters” – usually high-performing schools which opt out of local authority control to gain independence. These are run by the school’s governing body.