New principal of under-fire Suffolk New Academy pledges to remove special measures and gain ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted rating

Suffolk New Academy

Suffolk New Academy - Credit: Lucy taylor

The new principal of Suffolk New Academy, placed in special measures following a damning Ofsted inspection last month, has vowed to make it “outstanding”.

In an exclusive interview, Craig D’Cunha, who in three weeks starts his new role as principal of the academy formerly known as Chantry High School, said he is determined to overturn poor GCSE results and make the school a place of pride for the community.

It has also emerged the academy is on the brink of appointing a new sponsor following a Government-led intervention.

The school, previously run by Suffolk County Council and taken over by Suffolk New College, was ranked “inadequate” by Ofsted in all four key areas following an inspection in December.

In October, the Department for Education (DfE) branded performance levels as “unacceptably low” and warned that funding could be pulled if standards fail to rise.

Principal Andrew Fell resigned just days after the DfE statement which criticised last year’s GCSE results in which only 24% of pupils achieved five or more grades A*-C including English and maths.

Last night, Mr D’Cunha, the current vice principal of Neale-Wade Academy in March, Cambridgeshire, said: “I have seen the Ofsted report, I have been into the school and the staff have been superb, made real progress and are responding to the challenges of being in special measures.

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“There is a really positive environment there and things are going to get better. It is going to be an outstanding school and hopefully children should already be going home saying things are improving.

“Outstanding schools are at the heart of their community. They have the trust of parents and the whole community; their actions instil confidence.

“Chantry is a close community who should have pride in their local school and through our determined actions, Suffolk New Academy will once again be a place in which we can all be proud.”

Asked if he was confident of turning around the school which has around 650 pupils, he added: “Absolutely. It is an incredibly doable job and this school is not just going to settle for coming out of special measures. I am determined, the leadership team is determined and the teachers are determined, and actually Chantry needs an outstanding school. We are going to work tirelessly to make sure that is the case.”

He said those who “get in the way of learning will no longer be a barrier to success”, saying he could take advantage of academy status and increase the school week.

He added: “There are 1,700 children at Neale-Wade and when it went into special measures in 2012, 45% of lessons were good or better and a third were inadequate.

“We are out of special measures and now 97% of lessons are good or better on a daily basis, and about 25% are outstanding. It has been a fantastic experience and I have learnt a lot.

“We moved from special measures to an internally good grading in two years. I was looking for a school with similar challenges and I can’t see why that can’t be replicated at Suffolk New Academy.”

A joint statement signed by professor Dave Muller, principal of Suffolk New College, and Clive Bush, chief executive officer of Active Learning Trust, posted on Suffolk New Academy’s website said: “The Department for Education has requested that Suffolk New College review the current sponsorship arrangements for the Suffolk New Academy and has identified the Active Learning Trust as a potential new sponsor.

“The Active Learning Trust is already a sponsor of Gusford Primary School, Hillside Primary School and Sidegate Primary School. The college is working closely with the Department and the Active Learning Trust and will as requested facilitate a change of sponsorship by 1 March if this is feasible on the timescale.

“Consultation on this proposal opens on Thursday 29 January and will close on Thursday 12 February.

“More information on the Active Learning Trust can be found at their website Responses to the consultation should be sent to”

A DfE spokesman said they are aware of the latest development.

Speaking last week, Ipswich MP Ben Gummer said: “When you get a sponsor in that has not made a difference, like with Suffolk New Academy, then you can get rid off the sponsor and try something new. At Suffolk New Academy, there was the college, which failed, just as the county council had failed beforehand, and we have got a sponsor coming now; the Active Learning Trust which has got an established record. I feel confident they will try new things which may well work.”