Update: Academy Transformation Trust responds after government blocks it from sponsoring more schools over concerns about standards
15:58 20 March 2014
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An academy chain with seven schools in Norfolk and Suffolk has defended itself after ministers blocked it from expanding until it improves standards at its existing schools.
The Academy Transformation Trust (ATT) is one of 14 chains in England the Department for Education has “restricted in full” from sponsoring new academies or free schools.
ATT currently sponsors Admirals Academy, Diamond Academy, Iceni Academy, Norwich Road Academy and The Nicholas Hamond Academy in Norfolk, and Mildenhall College Academy and Westbourne Academy in Suffolk.
Answering a parliamentary question, Department for Education minister Edward Timpson said: “When we do have concerns about the performance of academy sponsors, we act quickly by stopping them from taking on new projects, so that they focus on their existing schools and ensure that pupils receive a good education. Only when sponsors have demonstrated this are they then able to take on new academies.”
The Department for Education refused to give any reasons why ATT in particular had been restricted.
ATT chief executive Ian Cleland said it had been working closely with the Department of Education to grow ATT in “a stable and sustainable way that offers all our academies the best chance to become outstanding schools”.
He said: “Since inception we have been driving up standards which is reflected in the significant improvement at The Nicholas Hamond Academy which moved from 19pc pass rate at 5+A*-C grade including English and maths in 2012, to 44pc in 2013. At primary level, the focus on reading has resulted in half our academies already achieving national expectations in terms of progress from KS1.”
Mr Cleland had previously said the 19pc pass rate at Nicholas Hamond in 2012 was due to a clerical error by the school before it became an academy.
He added: “Following discussions with DfE in autumn last year, we have focused our expertise and time on consolidating our 16 academies. We look forward to seeing rapid improvement across all our academies and are expecting this to be reflected in the summer’s SATs, GCSE and A-level results. We will then look at how we can grow of family of academies in a measured and beneficial way.”
Cheryl Hill, principal at The Nicholas Hamond Academy, said: “The levels of improvement that have taken place at The Nicholas Hamond Academy in its first 18 months have been significant; not least a jump in the quality of teaching being judged good or better increasing from 29pc to 97pc.
“Our predicted results for summer 2014 show 5 A*-C including English and maths will further increase from 44pc to 55pc. In English 76pc and in maths 89pc of pupils will make expected progress or better, which will exceed national averages. Our pupils now enjoy coming to the academy more than ever and as a result attendance rates have increased by over three per cent, again above national average.”
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