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Government sends warning letter to Oxford Academy over poor standards
MINISTERS last night threatened to intervene to push up standards at a struggling Oxford secondary school.
Officials at the Department for Education have written to Oxford Academy in Littlemore after highlighting it as one of the poorest performing academies in the country.
They have sent a “pre-warning” letter to the school demanding instant progress.
It also warned the role of the school’s sponsors – The Diocese of Oxford, the Beecroft Trust and Oxford Brookes – could be under threat unless improvements were made.
The Government said it could seize control of the Sandy Lane West school or remove it from sponsor control if standards did not rise.
The DfE said the “stubbornly low” results of Oxford Academy and six other schools around the UK – out of 604 sponsored academies – were unacceptable.
A spokesman said: “We will not tolerate long-term under-performance in any school – including an academy.
“As with maintained schools, if these academies do not make the progress we expect, we will take further action. This may result in a change to the sponsorship arrangements.”
The Secretary of State has the right to intervene in weak academies, removing a sponsor, or taking control of the governing body.
Talks between sponsors and the DfE about the school’s “disappointing position” have taken place.
Oxford Academy executive headteacher David Brown said he was not shocked to receive the letter but defended the school’s response to being placed in special measures by Ofsted inspectors last month.
He said: “We are not hiding, the school is in special measures, and they know we are dealing with it. I have no problem with the Department for Education holding us or anyone to account, as long as they do it fairly.
“The school has employed more experienced staff and brought tutors and extra coaches in, and we are talking to other heads and looking at bringing in help from Oxford Brookes.
“The short-term target is to improve GCSEs but more than that to improve the quality of teaching in each and every subject area.”
The DfE told the Oxford Mail that officials would not rely solely on exam results to monitor progress but would also visit the school to sit in on lessons and speak to teachers.
Oxford Brookes University and the Beecroft Trust did not respond when approached, but issued a joint-statement through the Diocese of Oxford.
Spokeswoman Anne Davey, vice chairwoman of governors, said: “The Department for Education and Ofsted have each used their own mechanisms to highlight similar concerns about standards at the academy.
“We are now working with both of these bodies in our efforts to raise attainment levels.
“We are pleased to say that we are continuing to work hard and are confident that we will soon see improvements.”
THREE struggling Oxfordshire schools have taken markedly different paths since being taken over by sponsors.
North Oxfordshire Academy, in Drayton Road, Banbury, was the first county school to convert in 2007 when it was taken over by the United Learning Trust and sponsored by Vodafone.
In 2008 just 28 per cent of its pupils achieved achieving five or more A* to C GCSEs including English and maths.
But steady improvement year-on-year culminated in that number climbing to 59 per cent last year. The school was ranked the 27th most improved in the country.
In 2011, Oxford Community School and previously The Oxford School became Oxford Spires Academy when it was sponsored by the CfBT Education Trust.
The East Oxford school in Glanville Road was instructed by the Government to become an academy to improve falling results.
In its first results after the conversion, 41 per cent of pupils achieved five good GCSEs, up 10 percentage points on the final year of the old school’s life. And last summer that number had again risen to 58 per cent in its first full academic year.
But since its conversion in 2008 The Oxford Academy has struggled to pull itself out of the doldrums.
In 2008 just 18 per cent of pupils achieved five or more A* to C GCSEs or equivalent including English and maths.
That number grew to 31 per cent the year after before falling to 28 per cent in 2011 and dropping again to 26 per cent in 2012.