Ely College governors chairman ‘ extremely disappointed’ that letter outlining change of academy sponsors was leaked to Ely Standard- she claims it was ‘one-sided inaccurate representation of the facts’

Ely College. Picture: Steve Williams.

Ely College. Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

The academy trust running Ely College is to be replaced following intervention by regional schools commissioner Tim Coulson. Parents have been told of the change in a letter.

However new chairman of the governors, Tricia Prichard, claims that the letter – leaked 24 hours ahead of it due to be sent- has caused unnecessary concern.

She told parents in a separate note: “You may be aware of reports in the local media suggesting that CfBT Schools Trust has been ‘sacked’ as the sponsor of Ely College.

“These reports are categorically untrue and result from inaccurate reporting of an early draft of a letter that you were to receive from me today, which we believe was leaked to the media.

“Although it has now been somewhat overtaken by events, I have attached the correct letter for your information so that you can read it in full as was originally intended.

“The purpose of this letter was to let you know that the trust has agreed to begin talks with the Department for Education about the possibility of transferring Ely College to another academy sponsor.

“The trust has not been sacked, or removed. It will continue to work closely with our senior leadership team and supporting the college until a new sponsor has been identified, whereupon the transition process will begin.

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“This was a difficult decision, and one that has been made with the best interests of the college at heart.

“It is extremely disappointing that such a sensitive issue was leaked in this way, resulting in a one-sided, inaccurate representation of the facts that has, no doubt, caused alarm and uncertainty among parents, students and staff. “

In the main letter she says: “The latest (Ofsted) report on the school is highly disappointing.

“There are features of the school that I like very much but at the moment the criticisms are severe and we have much work to do.

“I would like to reassure parents that the staff and the governing body are determined to put right the issues facing the school and your children’s progress is our top concern.”

The fall from grace of the CfBT Education Trust that looks after the college follows a devastating re-assessment of the school last week. That followed an earlier decision by Ofsted to place the college in special measures and sack the entire governing body and replace the principal and two deputies.

Ms Prichard, recently appointed chairman of governors, tells parents that their current academy sponsor CfBT Schools Trust is based in Reading with no other schools in this area.

She said that given this geography CfBT has agreed with the Department for Education (DfE) that the “scale and style of support needed to bring about wholesale, rapid change” could only be done by replacing it.

She said it had been agreed that support for Ely College “would be better provided by a trust that can bring Ely into a supportive cluster of other neighbouring schools.

“It has therefore agreed to work with the DfE on transferring responsibility to a different academy trust and negotiations have begun to secure a new sponsor for the school.

“CfBT will be working with the DfE and local governing body to ensure a smooth transition. “

Ms Prichard said she was recently appointed chairman of governors by CfBT having worked previously as an HMI (Her Majesty’s Inspector) with Ofsted and most recently as chief executive of a multi academy trust (the Diocese of Ely Multi-Academy Trust of 16 schools).

“It is my responsibility to oversee urgent work to address the criticisms of governance that have been made by Ofsted in the inspection last spring and subsequent visits,” she said.

“I have further agreed with the Regional Schools Commissioner, who oversees the school on behalf of the DfE, that I will provide him with regular progress reports so he can be satisfied that all that can be done to quickly improve the education for the pupils, is being done.”

Ms Prichard promised that a further update about the school would be issued later this week by principal Evelyn Forde.

Ely College – with vacancies in its maths, science, psychology, history and foreign languages departments- has been advised by Ofsted to freeze recruitment of newly qualified teachers.

The recommendation follows the latest Ofsted inspection which says the school’s improvement plan “is not fit for purpose”.

The comment came in a letter from Ofsted inspector Tom Paul Tomkow and follows a two day visit to the college on October 6 and 7 that concluded “the academy is not taking effective action towards the removal of special measures”.

Although accepting the academy sponsors now have a “statement of action” that is fit for purpose, Ofsted is critical of the improvements under way.

The latest inspection team looked at 29 lessons and concluded that “many of the weaknesses in teaching that were identified at the inspection in March 2015 remain”.

It concludes: “There is currently not enough teaching of good or better quality to raise standards rapidly enough. In most of the lessons seen during this inspection, students’ progress was too slow.”

Since the previous inspection, 12 teachers have left the academy and four new teachers have been appointed. There are 10 teaching posts being advertised which are currently filled by temporary appointments.

Ofsted says achievement remains inadequate and performance at A level this year “was again weak and the proportion of students achieving five or more A* to C grades at GCSE, including maths and English, decreased further and remains below the government’s floor standards”.

Ofsted also reported that:

•Literacy levels are too low

•Teachers do not do enough to support literacy skills

•Reading levels are not been systematically checked

•Not enough is being done to narrow gaps between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged students – in fact the gap is widening.

Established in 1968 as the Centre for British Teachers, the CfBT officially changed its name to CfBT Education Trust in 2006 as a result of the organisation’s far-reaching portfolio.

It says that “as a leading authority on school improvement and school inspection, we apply our expertise in the UK and across the world.

“We manage a portfolio of free schools and academies and own a select network of private schools. We also manage education facilities for young offenders in prisons.”