Questions raised over new sponsor of struggling Ipswich Academy, Paradigm Trust

Ipswich Academy.

Ipswich Academy. - Credit: Su Anderson

A shadow of doubt has been cast over the capability of the new sponsor of a struggling academy in Ipswich.

Paradigm Trust is to replace the Learning Schools Trust which is currently running Ipswich Academy, formerly Holywells High School.

The academy was placed into special measures in January after a damning Ofsted report. But questions have been raised as the new trust is based around 75 miles away in east London and has no record of working with a secondary school.

Paradigm Trust says it has successfully delivered “significant school improvement” on “three separate occasions” in schools that were in special measures.

Graham White, secretary of the Suffolk branch of the National Union of Teachers, said: “We know very little about the new sponsors and they do not seem to have a strong track record at turning around schools; the evidence does not seem to be clear to me,” he said.

“We are always happy though for people to work collaboratively in schools but I am not sure how the collaboration will work when the sponsor is a long way from Ipswich Academy.”

David Ellesmere, Labour’s General Election candidate for Ipswich, said the trust does not inspire him with “any great confidence”.

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“Their track record is only running primary schools rather than secondary schools, so how can we have any confidence that they are able to turn Ipswich Academy around?,” he said.

Ben Gummer, the Conservative General Election candidate for Ipswich, defended the trust and questioned the claims made by Mr Ellesmere and Mr White.

He said: “The trust was formed by people who have done a sterling job with schools in very difficult circumstances, some which have faced even more problems than Ipswich Academy.

“I like their focus on discipline and exceptional teaching and great leadership. I have got no doubt that they are going to make a difference, but I am going to keep them up to the mark and make sure they produce the results.”

When it was formed in 2013, Paradigm Trust, was running two schools: Old Ford Primary Academy and Culloden Primary Academy, both in London. Old Ford had an “outstanding” Ofsted at that time, while Culloden was recognised as “good”.

The trust’s executive principal, who according to company’s finances earned £189,624 in 2014, is Amanda Phillips.

She said: “I became headteacher of Old Ford in 2003 and executive headteacher of Culloden in 2006. Old Ford was in serious weaknesses, having been previously in and out of special measures, and Culloden was ‘causing grave concern’ to the local authority at the time when I took over.

“By 2008 Old Ford was judged by Ofsted to be outstanding and in 2009 Culloden was judged by Ofsted to be good with outstanding features. Both schools still hold the same status with Ofsted.”

The trust took over its third school, Solebay Primary Academy, also in London, in September last year which had a “requires improvement” Ofsted grade. The trust claims the school has now been judged in an external review as “good” with “outstanding” leadership and management.

Responding to claims about the trust’s record of working with secondary schools, Ms Phillips said her leadership team have “previous experience of working in secondary education”. She added that the trust would work to “develop local partnerships” with education bodies in Suffolk.

On Ms Phillips’ salary, Christopher Crozier, chairman of the Paradigm Trust board said: “We are extremely fortunate in having Amanda; she is a very experienced leader and is renowned for her tireless work to raise the achievement of pupils, often in the most challenging of circumstances.”

The trust will take over the running of Ipswich Academy from September.