School awaits fate after ‘termination’ warning

March 05 2019

GOVERNORS of a school facing a takeover after a poor Ofsted report are challenging the use of Government powers to wrest control from them.

Steiner Academy Bristol was issued with a termination warning notice by the Regional Schools Commissioner for the South West, Lisa Mannall, who told governors she was “minded to terminate the funding agreement of the academy and transfer the school to a strong multi-academy trust that can provide the capacity for continued improvement”.
Ms Mannall said she was doing so “because I do not have confidence that the trust is able to rapidly and sustainably improve the academy’s systems of governance and management, and educational standards”.
The notice – the first stage of the process of finding a new sponsor for the school – followed an Ofsted report in January which rated the school inadequate in all areas and placed it into special measures.
The commissioner said seven of Ofsted’s conclusions were of “serious concern”, including pupils being exposed to avoidable risk of harm, unnecessary physical intervention, bullying, weak teaching and a failure to ensure pupils received an acceptable standard of education.
The school’s leaders were given until February 20 to respond to the warning notice, and told the commissioner’s team would work with them to “identify a trust that can provide for the needs of the school and its pupils”.
An academy management sub-committee appointed by the commissioner has already taken over the day-to-day running of the school and the governors have been urged to support its work focusing on safeguarding, adherence to statutory requirements, increasing teachers’ expectations of pupils and “building an open culture at the school which puts pupils’ safety and welfare first”.
On the day its response was due the school’s board of governors issued a statement challenging the warning notice and setting out what it called “multiple flaws with the Department’s approach”.
The board said that both the Department for Education and external agencies had said they were satisfied the school was keeping children safe, despite what Ofsted had said.
The governors also said the existing leadership team had demonstrated the capacity to improve through staff training and new learning programmes, while the DfE’s appointees had had a “limited impact” and the department had a ‘generic’ set of priorities for improvement, which did not take account of the individual circumstances of the school.
Co-chair of governors Anna Mapson said: “We’ve had private reassurances that both Lisa Mannall and (academies minister) Lord Agnew support the Steiner ethos in principle, and yet they have failed to give our parents that same certainty. We want a public statement from them saying they remain committed to our school’s vision and ethos”.=
Governor Roy Douglas added: “Whilst the Ofsted report is being challenged the Department for Education must not transfer the school to a multi-academy trust. We contend the inspection was flawed.”
A fund to pay for a legal challenge to the inspection has so far raised just over £17,000, while an online petition calling for a new inspection currently has just over 2,600 signatures.
A DfE spokesman confirmed that the Steiner Academy Bristol governing body's response had been received.
He said: "We are considering the representations and will be responding in due course."