PUPILS at schools deemed ‘inadequate’ by inspectors are being let down by a lack of extra Government funding to help headteachers make improvements, a County Durham MP has claimed.

Kevan Jones said the current policy of taking failing schools out of local authority control and turning them into academies did not necessarily mean they would become successful.

The Labour MP for North Durham said new and more effective leadership must be matched by extra Government money.

The Northern Echo: North Durham MP Kevan Jones North Durham MP Kevan Jones

An investigation by the Northern Echo found three secondary state schools in County Durham had received the lowest overall ranking from the national education watchdog in recent years.

The Hermitage Academy in Chester-le-Street, Tanfield School, near Stanley, and Whitworth Park Academy in Spennymoor, are no longer run by Durham County Council and are now managed by new academy trusts.

It is understood changes are being implemented to improve the all-important ratings, but Mr Jones said the Covid pandemic means there is a lag in re-inspections by Ofsted.

The Northern Echo: Whitworth Park School and Sixth Form in SpennymoorWhitworth Park School and Sixth Form in Spennymoor

He said: “The problem we have got is that just because somewhere becomes an academy does not make it successful.

“Any kid is being let down if they are not getting the education they deserve.

“What we need to do is make sure they get the best education possible.”

Mr Jones said there had been no major Government capital investment in North Durham school since 2010.

He said: “The last school we got under the wire was North Durham Academy and there has not been a great deal of investment across County Durham.

“They need capital investment but also investment in terms of teaching and leadership. You cannot do it without resources.

“It has been compounded over the last two years by issues around Covid.

“Ofsted has not been doing re-inspections and I take the view that kids only get one chance.”

Northern Echo analysis of recently published state-funded school inspections and outcomes data from Ofsted on the Government’s website reveals County Durham has just six ‘maintained’ state secondary schools that are still run by the local authority.

There are 18 ‘academy converters’, schools which previously had 'good' or 'outstanding' Ofsted grades and have chosen academy status.

There are also five ‘sponsor led academies’, former maintained schools that have been transformed to academy status following Government intervention and are run by an approved sponsor.

Tanfield School and Whitworth Park Academy are expected to fall within this category when they are next inspected.

The Northern Echo: The Hermitage Academy The Hermitage Academy

Prior to 2019, The Hermitage Academy was sponsored by The Hermitage Academy Trust, but in the wake in the ‘inadequate’ Ofsted rating, it was taken over by the North East Learning Trust.

Mr Jones said he had visited Hermitage Academy after their Ofsted inspection in 2018 and had been assured that a comprehensive action plan is now in place.

Regarding Tanfield School, which was inspected in 2019, and is now run by Eden Learning Trust, Mr Jones said it was unclear to him what steps the school was taking to improve the situation.

Shortly after the inspection headteacher Steven Clough reassured parents new leadership was in place and there were plans to improve the school’s Ofsted rating.

Whitworth Park Academy, which was inspected in 2016 is now run by the Advance Learning Partnership, falls within Tory MP for Bishop Auckland Dehenna Davison’s constituency.

She has not responded to a request for comment on the school, or Mr Jones’ view regarding the lack of extra funding for schools deemed ‘inadequate’.

All three schools have been asked what changes have been implemented and all three have declined to comment.

Jim Murray, Durham County Council’s head of education and skills said: “Maintained schools which receive an ‘inadequate’ Ofsted rating are given an ‘Academy Order’ by the Department for Education (DfE), which requires the school to become a sponsored academy under an academy trust.

“Academies similarly can be transferred to other academy trusts if standards fall to this level.

“Tanfield, Hermitage and Whitworth Park schools have been successfully running for some time now under the sponsorship of their respective multi-academy trusts.

“We are confident that, on re-inspection, Ofsted teams will recognise the significant improvements these schools have made under these arrangements.

“We maintain strong relationships with all of our schools and academy trusts, and we continue to work collaboratively to provide the best educational opportunities for young people in our communities.”

The Northern Echo: Tanfield School Tanfield School

Ofsted said the three schools in County Durham, which appeared as ‘inadequate’ in the Government data, technically no longer have that rating because, under the current legal framework, there were officially closed and became ‘new’ schools.

A spokesperson for Ofsted said: “The academy is, by law, a new school and so will be inspected as such, not as an inadequate school.

“However, inadequate schools all receive regular monitoring inspections (including during the pandemic), which will be converted to graded inspections where we believe the school is likely to improve their grade, and so they may well not need to wait until their scheduled inspection.”

Bridget Phillipson MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said her plan includes: delivering tutoring, expanded before and afterschool clubs and ongoing access to trained mental health counsellors and 6,500 new teachers to deliver 'a world class education across all our schools'.

She said: “Labour is ambitious for every child. It’s time the government matches Labour’s commitment to put education at the heart of our ambition for Britain.

“The Education Secretary’s new strategy amounts to business as usual for most schools, teaching the hours and working in the ways they already do.

“Children are being failed by a Conservative government which has no idea how to improve their experience in the classroom."

The Department for Education has been approached for comment by the Northern Echo.

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