Felixstowe schools to part ties with controversial academy trust

Felixstowe Academy is to cut ties with Academies Enterprise Trust Picture: PAUL NIXON

Felixstowe Academy is to cut ties with Academies Enterprise Trust Picture: PAUL NIXON - Credit: Archant

An academy trust which has come under fire from concerned parents is to relinquish control of two Felixstowe schools amid government pressure.

Langer Primary School will now seek a new sponsor Picture: WENDY TURNER

Langer Primary School will now seek a new sponsor Picture: WENDY TURNER - Credit: Archant

The decision has been made to replace Academies Enterprise Trust (AET), which runs both Felixstowe Academy and nearby Langer Primary, following criticism by parents and politicians alike for its failure to meet government standards.

It comes just two months after the controversial education trust Bright Tribe pulled out of five schools in East Anglia amid questions raised over its management of other academies.

Since being put into special measures under AET’s leadership, Felixstowe Academy has continued to struggle – prompting more than 1,300 parents and carers to sign a petition demanding a change in management.

The petition, launched by Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey, called for the trust to be replaced after the school was judged by Ofsted to be ‘inadequate’ in November 2017 – the lowest possible ranking, and a step down from its previous rating of ‘requires improvement’.

Dr Coffey said: “AET were trusted with Felixstowe Academy back in 2011 and unfortunately have just not delivered. In my view, AET responded far too late after the 2017 GCSE results and the Progress 8 scores in 2018 confirmed that Felixstowe children were not making the progress they should have done.”

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The report found three out of five categories to be ‘inadequate’, including effectiveness of leadership and management, personal development, behaviour and welfare, and outcomes for pupils.

Poor progress for children with special needs, high exclusion rates and a “culture of bullying” were just some of the issues raised following the inspection.

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The academy was also confirmed as the only secondary school in Suffolk to have fallen below the government’s ‘floor standards’ for academic performance in 2017 when just under half of GCSE pupils passed both English and maths.

However Felixstowe Academy did receive a more positive Ofsted monitoring report in July, indicating that some improvements had been made.

AET runs a number of academies across the country, with a portfolio of primary schools possibly set to grow by up to 1,000 pupils this year.

What happens next?

AET said it has agreed with the Department for Education (DfE) that the two Felixstowe academies will leave the organisation, subject to finding “an appropriate sponsor, a suitable transfer arrangement, and a timescale that is not disruptive to pupils and staff”.

The trust added that it expected the two academies will transfer “by the end of the year”.

In the meantime, AET will continue to manage both schools.

What does the trust have to say?

Julian Drinkall, chief executive of AET, said the trust will be “sad to say goodbye to Felixstowe and Langer academies” – claiming it has made “good progress” with both schools in the past year.

However he acknowledged “a fresh start under a new trust could be beneficial” in the light of the academies’ recent disappointing Ofsted ratings.

“AET is announcing today that two academies in Felixstowe will leave the trust by the end of the academic year,” he said. “Both schools have had a challenging past, culminating in their recent Ofsted judgements.

“Although good progress is being made at Felixstowe Academy, with the school seeing a significant uplift in its GCSE and A Level results in the summer – including sending its first ever student to Oxbridge.”

Mr Drinkall said he acknowledged both Dr Coffey and the DfE had concerns about the school, and rebrokering both academies had been “raised as an option”.

“We want to do the right thing for both schools, and so would be supportive of this step subject to a high-quality sponsor being found that is financially sound and has a strong education turnaround track record,” he said.

“It’s also of paramount importance that any transfer be done in a smooth and orderly way, so as not to destabilise either school and slow the progress that has been made.”

In the meantime, the trust will be continue its work at both academies.

Mr Drinkall added: “As Ofsted have noted, good progress is already being made at Felixstowe Academy, and local families should be in no doubt as to our determination to do everything in our power to transform both these schools.”

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