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Five academy sponsored schools in Northampton seen Ofsted improvement while two have got worse

Five out of the 21 schools in Northampton taken over by academy ‘sponsors’ in the past 10 years have improved their Ofsted rating while two have got worse, a Chronicle & Echo investigation has found. Soon after the Coalition Government came to power in 2010, former Education Secretary Michael Gove invited all schools to become academies, which means they are funded directly by the Department for Education and outside of local authority control. In the first couple of years of the new policy, the majority of the schools that converted to academy status were schools rated ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ by Ofsted as they did not require an outside sponsor. Since 2012, a number of schools in Northampton that were judged ‘satisfactory’ or ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted have been taken over by various different school sponsors due to the favoured Government policy for school improvement being a conversion to academy status. There are now seven academy sponsors involved with schools in Northampton, the largest being The David Ross Education Trust (DRET), which sponsors Malcolm Arnold Academy, Cedar Road, Briar Hill, Eastfield, Kings Heath, The Arbours and Malcolm Arnold primary schools. Other sponsors include the Greenwood Dale Foundation Trust, which sponsors Weston Favell Academy, Sunnyside, Woodvale and Green Oaks Primary schools, and The EMLC Academy Trust, which sponsors Castle and Stimpson Avenue primary schools. The Creative Academies Trust sponsors Abbeyfield School and Queen Eleanor Primary School, while the Collaborative Academies Trust sponsors Kingsthorpe College and Lumbertubs and Spring Lane primary schools. The Education Fellowship Trust sponsors Blackthorn and Thorplands primary schools. The first school in the town to become a sponsored academy was Northampton Academy, run by The United Learning Trust. Analysis of the results of Ofsted inspections since the schools became sponsored academies shows that Malcolm Arnold Academy and Northampton Academy have both improved to “good” after being previously “inadequate”, failing schools. Weston Favell Academy, which became an academy in September 2011 after being placed in special measures, was rated as ‘requires improvement’ following an Ofsted inspection in March 2012. Briar Hill Primary has also improved from ‘inadequate’ to ‘requires improvement’ since it became an academy and Eastfield Primary has improved from ‘requires improvement’ to ‘good’. Two schools – Abbeyfield and Kingsthorpe College – have remained with the same ‘requires improvement’ Ofsted rating since becoming academies. However, two primary schools – Blackthorn and Lumbertubs – have slipped from the ‘requires improvement’ category to ‘inadequate’ since becoming sponsored academies. Lizzie Rowe, deputy CEO of The Education Fellowship Trust, said the academy sponsor had run Blackthorn for less than two years and had identified “significant issues” which it was addressing. She said: “We are fully committed to leading Blackthorn to become an outstanding school, providing for all pupils’ needs and ensuring they are well equipped for the next stage of their education. Staff, pupils and parents are all commenting that they are experiencing real change at Blackthorn Primary School.”

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