NEARLY all of the region’s inadequate secondary schools have been closed and reopened as ‘new’ since receiving damning Ofsted reports, The Northern Echo can reveal.

A North East MP is calling for change over procedures that see schools launched in the wake of inadequate ratings wait years to be reassessed.

Ofsted’s latest data shows its inspectors have assigned their lowest possible rating to 22 schools across the region since 2015.

But nearly all of them – 20 of the 22 – have been relaunched as new schools since receiving the damning rating.

As a result, it has been at least seven years since some of the facilities – whether in their past or present form – have been fully inspected by the regulatory body.

The Northern Echo: North Durham MP Kevan Jones

MP Kevan Jones

Calling for quick and regular reassessments to ensure improvements are happening, North East MP Kevan Jones said parents deserve to know what is happening at their child’s school.

In December, there were more than 16,000 of the region’s pupils at schools that were yet to be rated, but which had been opened following an inadequate rating for its predecessor.

In many cases, the school has kept the same name and while leadership has undoubtedly changed, staff members and pupils have been retained.

However, because the school is classed as “new”, inspections and results associated with the school in its previous form are discarded and it does not have to be inspected for three years after opening.

Note: Ratings may have changed since the publication of Ofsted data and schools may be waiting for more recent reports to be published. This database does not include schools that have not been inspected in their current form.

The Echo understands significant changes have been made at what were deemed the region’s worst rated schools since Ofsted carried out their last full inspections.

But most of the schools have not yet been inspected in their current form and will have to wait for any changes to be reflected in official ratings.

In at least eight cases, the schools’ predecessors had received an inadequate rating more than five years ago, including County Durham’s Whitworth Park Academy.

Read more: More funding for inadequate schools needed, says MP

And it has been at least seven years since the Ashington and Bedlington academies in Northumberland received the worst possible rating, despite being relaunched in 2017 and 2018 respectively.

Labour’s Mr Jones said schools established in place of inadequate facilities should be inspected sooner and should be supported to publish regularly updated action plans.

He said: “These are the same schools, that does not change with personnel leaving or names changing.

“A school does not automatically improve just because it’s turned into an academy.

“Communities want to know what is happening after an inadequate rating and whether the problems highlighted have been addressed.

“Those schools that were inadequate before should be inspected earlier to ensure improvements are being made.

“Children only get one chance at their education.”

The Northern Echo:

Freebrough Academy, Brotton

James Turner, chief executive of educational charity The Sutton Trust, said Ofsted ratings must be as up to date as possible to give parents crucial context and to be fair.

He said: “There is a big difference between a school with new leadership which is on an upward trajectory, and one which is continuing to struggle with the same challenges as when it was last inspected.

“Ofsted ratings are far from perfect and only give a partial picture, but they can be useful to parents in making decisions.”

The ‘new’ schools waiting for inspection include Huntcliff School and Rye Hills Academy in Redcar and Cleveland; Freebrough Academy in Brotton; Outwood Academy Normanby; Hermitage Academy and Tanfield School in North Durham; Laurence Jackson School in Guisborough, St Hild’s in Hartlepool and Thornaby Academy. All have been approached for comment.

A spokesman for Outwood Academy Normanby said the school’s conversion to the Outwood Grange Academies Trust in 2019 represented a fresh start for its staff and pupils.

He added: “We quickly began its school improvement journey to becoming an outstanding school.”

The Northern Echo:

Outwood Academy Normanby

A spokeswoman for the NEAT Academy Trust, which took over St Hild’s CoE School last April, said rigorous support and “valiant efforts” had led to robust and sustained improvement since the last inspection.

A Department for Education spokesman said Government support for inadequate schools included transferring them to strong academy trusts.

A spokeswoman for Ofsted said new schools – even those which share the same staff and pupils as their predecessors – were considered “entirely different in legal setup and governance”.

She said schools that opened before September 2020 would be inspected within their fourth or fifth year of operation and for those that open after that, within their third year.


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