Brighton primary school in line to be academy

Posted On 16 Mar 2012 at 9:38 pm

A Brighton school is likely to be the first primary in the area to become an academy after inspectors gave it a disappointing report.

The Education Secretary Michael Gove is expected to approve the change in status for Whitehawk Primary School within weeks.

Officials have been trying to find a sponsor, almost certainly from the private sector.

Mr Gove approved a list of preferred sponsors four months ago, including three commercial organisations from America – Mosaic, Edison Learning and K12.

None is thought to have been accepted as suitable locally.

A change to academy status is likely to be opposed by the ruling Green administration which runs Brighton and Hove City Council.

The school, in Whitehawk Road, Whitehawk, is currently under local authority – or council – control.

But if the council tries to oppose a change, it is likely to be overruled by Mr Gove as happened at Downhills Primary School in Haringey, London, today (Friday 16 March). Mr Gove sacked the governors and ordered the school to become an academy.

Local links

It is believed that Brighton and Hove City Council is keen for any potential sponsor for an academy in Whitehawk to have local links or relevance.

City College Brighton and Hove, which has a campus in Whitehawk on the old Stanley Deason school site, and Brighton University are the preferred partners. The university’s teacher training course has earned official praise.

Among the private sector possibilities believed to have been discussed are Brighton and Hove Albion, American Express, which has offices near by, and the Aldridge Foundation.

The Aldridge Foundation, run by locally born millionaire businessman Sir Rod Aldridge, already sponsors the Brighton Aldridge Community Academy (BACA) in Falmer and the Portslade Aldridge Community Academy (PACA) in Mile Oak.

If Sir Rod turns his attention to a primary school, some believe that he is more likely to look to Moulsecoomb Primary School, which acts as a feeder to BACA.

Moulsecoomb Primary and West Blatchington Primary, in Hangleton, are both regarded as possible academies, especially if they are unable to improve their performance.

Moulsecoomb has an exceptionally high number of pupils with special educational needs and West Blatchington has many children who do not speak English as their first language.

Inadequate

But Whitehawk is the only primary school in Brighton and Hove to have been graded as “inadequate” – the lowest rating – when last inspected by Ofsted.

After inspectors visited the school last September it was placed in “special measures” which means that it is subject to extra monitoring.

Mr Gove is keen that failing primary schools – those in special measures – are turned into academies in an attempt to improve performance. The switch is often accompanied by a change of head teacher.

Since Whitehawk was placed in special measures, league tables have been published suggesting that its results last summer were among the most disappointing nationally.

As part of the special measures monitoring regime two inspectors visited the school over two days on Wednesday 22 February and Thursday 23 February.

It was the first monitoring inspection since the school went into special measures.

Ofsted published its report this week. To read it, click here. In it, the senior inspector, John Seal, said that progress was satisfactory – one level above inadequate.

Mr Seal told the school that it may not take on any newly qualified teachers. New recruits must be suitably experienced.

Improvement

He said: “There are some early signs of improvement since the previous inspection but not throughout the school.

“Although improvements in teaching can be seen in most year groups, they are too recent and not consistently embedded enough to be making the full impact required to tackle the legacy of underachievement and very low starting points of most pupils.

“For example, in Years 3 and 4, pupils’ progress is too slow.

“As a result, their attainment for reading, writing and mathematics remains too low.

“Pupils’ progress in their writing and mathematics is of particular concern.

“The proportion of well-taught lessons is steadily increasing and is higher than at the time of the last inspection.

“Pupils are well behaved, courteous and polite in lessons and around the school. Where lessons are stimulating and interesting, pupils’ behaviour is often exemplary.

“They are keen to learn and enjoy coming to school.

Focused

“The school has maintained its effective strategies for encouraging better attendance. As a result, attendance continues to improve steadily.

“School leaders are more clearly focused on improving the quality of teaching and have successfully ensured there are no longer any inadequate lessons.”

But he said: “The links between key actions and measurable milestones are not sufficiently clear to ensure the school is on track to make the necessary improvements.

“The governing body continues to challenge and hold the school to account well. It knows exactly what the next steps for improvement should be and is robust in its ambition for the school to move forward at a more rapid rate.

“The local authority’s statement of action is fit for purpose. Appropriate provision is in place for advice, support and challenge.”

He said that the council had funded a part-time teacher coach, arranged for an expert to support popular head Daniel Weiner and his senior staff and was monitoring the situation.

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