Ofsted warns
region’s biggest
academy chain

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YORKSHIRE’S biggest academy chain has been warned by Ofsted that too many of its schools have been underperforming for too long.

The education watchdog has called for improvements from the School Partnership Trust Academies (SPTA) after carrying out inspections at six of its primary schools – which found that five were less than good.

The SPTA, started by Garforth School, has grown into one of the country’s biggest academy sponsors. It is now responsible for more than 40 schools which are mainly in Yorkshire and surrounding areas.

Academies are autonomous state schools which are run outside of local council control. Some operate in large chains. SPTA is the third chain to be criticised by Ofsted following Kemnal Academies Trust and the E-ACT .

However the SPTA said Ofsted’s comments were drawn from a “small sample of six schools”, and that it was important to consider the performance across the whole group. The SPTA also said figures show it has a higher proportion of improving schools than the rest of the country.

Inspectors visited six SPTA academies last month and found that four required improvement. Two, Wybers Wood and Strand Primary in Grimsby had improved from inadequate and Whetley Primary, in Bradford, and Kingston Park Academy, in Nottinghamshire, had seen no change. Wainwright Primary, in Nottinghamshire, was still rated as inadequate and Macauley Primary, in Grimsby was judged to be good, up from a previous “satisfactory” judgment under the old ratings system.

Inspectors said they found “key weaknesses” across several of the schools inspected. These included teaching that was not consistently good, weaknesses in teaching the brightest pupils and those with special educational needs, and school governance that did not have the expertise to challenge senior staff.

A letter from Ofsted’s regional director for Yorkshire Nick Hudson said: “The inspections of SPTA academies since January 2014 show that the percentage of good and better schools is significantly below that seen nationally.

“More positively, it is encouraging that two previously inadequate schools have improved.

“Also, the percentage of schools showing improvement since the last inspection is higher than found nationally and this gives some cause for optimism.”

The SPTA said that across the group almost half of its primaries and a third of its secondary academies were good or better. It added: “There is ample evidence which when compared to national trends and statistics, confirms the board’s belief that SPTA is a highly effective sponsor.”