Pupils at Ipswich Academy ‘have not been served well enough’ says new principal Amanda Phillips
Time is running out...to save this school.
Determined to turn Ipswich Academy around, new academy principal Amanda Phillips, has little more than 13 months to bring the school out of special measures, following an ‘inadequate’ rating in January.
Ofsted gave the school – formerly Holywells High School – just two years to improve in January.
In her first in-depth interview, the new principal from Paradigm Trust, which took over the school in September from the Learning Schools Trust, has described the scale of the challenge.
And Ms Phillips failed to rule out that the academy could be closed if they do not raise standards.
The £16million school was opened in 2013 by then education secretary Michael Gove. A Department for Education spokesman said schools still in special measures were assessed on “a case-by case” basis. He added the early signs were positive, with “effective action” being taken to make improvements.
When asked if it was fair to ask Paradigm to improve the school in a matter of months, Ms Phillips said: “These young people have not been served well enough, that’s what Paradigm does – goes into schools where children have not got the education they need.
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“If everybody turned away and said ‘there’s not enough time that we need to get the improvement’ it would just fail the youngsters, especially when all the other children in the trust are getting a great education.
“We feel we have to extend that to here.”
The school will have opportunity to come out of special measures in January, April and September next year but Ms Phillips admitted she did not think it would happen until January 2017 – the latest possible date.
Paradigm is responsible for three other schools, all primaries in London – Old Ford with an ‘outstanding’ rating, Culloden also ‘outstanding’ and Solebay with ‘requires improvement’, but the trust was not in control of the school at the time of the inspection.
The key priority now is to raise the quality of teaching at Ipswich Academy.
In the latest Ofsted mini report, inspectors noted that 26 teachers had left during the summer term, four of whom were in supply positions.
Ms Phillips, who has a CBE for services to education, said adverts for new teaching positions had received a strong response.
“It’s about lifting everyone’s eyes to see what’s possible in school by having energetic and vibrant people. We have some but we need more – that’s what will make the difference,” she said.
“It’s very easy in a complex organisation to focus on a whole range of things but it’s all about the quality of teaching; there are no quick fixes.”
Ms Phillips, who is also executive principal of the three other schools and chief executive of the trust, which employs around 440 people, earned £189,624 last year.
An initial plan to work four days a week at Ipswich Academy was quickly altered to five, with Ms Phillips having spent “two afternoons” in London since she took on the principal role.
She admitted there was “a lot to be done” and starts work most mornings at 7.10am – having to travel 135 miles in total every day to get to and from the school.
Ms Phillips said the academy, like all secondary schools in the country, would be judged from a new framework in 2016 when assessing GCSE exam success.
She added the expectation is for the school to be at the national average or above next year.
In the summer 23% of students got five or more A*-C GCSE grades, including English and maths.
Earlier this month the newspaper revealed that Ofsted had described the school’s sixth form, which has 22 students, as “unviable”.
“Next September we will suspend new admissions to the sixth form until we are in a position to open it,” she said.
“We need to get Years 7 to 11 right. The sixth form is an integral part of the school and we do not want to lose it – we want it to be effective.”
She added the school was working with other colleges and sixth forms to transfer students. Other changes in the future could include to the school day. Students start school at 8.20am and finish at 2.40pm, with half-an-hour for lunch – something Ms Phillips said had some benefit but could change going forward.
The school, which has capacity for 1,200 students, has 761 children enrolled.