Update: See follow-up article here.
Ofsted has released a remarkable Monitoring Inspection Report describing a strong performance at the failed Copperfield Academy (published only by the school at the time of writing but not yet generally released). However, it raises more questions than it answers, suggesting how a Trust might manipulate the system.
First, bring in a 'Super Head' and two Acting Deputies as the senior leadership team, to carry out a short term fix, who will then then no doubt depart to another troubleshooting exercise, as the REAch2 Trust tried previously in 2016 at the same school. Secondly, make sure there are persons in front of each class to teach.
My previous article, which looked at the shocking failings of the Copperfield Academy and REAch2 in some detail, identified the massive turnover of teachers and headteachers as the central issue during the Trust's six years in charge, spelled out in full below. This is an issue which still continues, as incidentally revealed by the Report in a throwaway comment.
The Report reveals that half the current teaching staff are not qualified to teach and that the Monitoring Inspection found: ’the quality of teaching remains highly variable. This is further exacerbated by the high level of staff changes or staff who are absent’. So, there are still staff changes going on mid-year as the inspection was taking place. In some schools absentee teachers are not unusual feature when Ofsted is coming in, with Trusts being known to ship in experienced staff from other Trust establishments for the period to cover the gaps.
Note: After Kent Online picked up my previous article they also published a very positive take on Copperfield Academy, but without mentioning the article, or any of my concerns.
Staff Turnover under REAch2
The following evidence is drawn primarily from official Reports.
September 2016 Ofsted Report: Leaders have not been able to retain teachers. At the beginning of each year, a large number of teachers join the school but do not stay. This term, almost three quarters of the teaching staff are new, with most at the beginning of their teaching career....... In September 2016, 13 new teachers joined the school, of which five are newly qualified teachers and six are new to the English education system’....‘A new senior leadership team has a very clear view of the improvements that are required. Leaders have wasted no time in developing ambitious plans which focus on the most important things first’ – the latter a recurring theme!
October 2017 Monitoring Inspection: At the time of the previous inspection, a new executive headteacher, leadership team and local governance arrangements had been in place for approximately two weeks. There have been further significant changes to governance, leadership and teaching since this time. The executive headteacher’s involvement with the school ended during the spring term, 2017. The head of school continued to run the school, supported by the trust. The current experienced headteacher took up post on 7 May 2017. The head of school left shortly after this, following a three-week handover period. The deputy headteacher has joined the school since the previous inspection and two assistant headteachers took up post in September 2017. Eleven new teachers took up post in September 2017.
June 2018 Kentonline: A total of ten members of staff have resigned from a beleaguered primary school which has parted ways with its fifth head teacher in five years''. Reach2 spokesperson quoted: 'The formal recruitment process for a new Head will begin shortly. Our staffing more generally is currently very stable, with no vacancies'. There has been no sign of such a recruitment process, always difficult over the summer holiday as interviews cannot realistically take place, and in any case the Executive Head took up post at the beginning of the September term.
August 2018, Kentonline: REAch2's spokesperson said: "At the end of the school year two teaching staff left us – one of whom was returning to her home country as she had always planned – and eight support staff..When former head teacher Kevin Holmes left with just weeks to go of the school term after less than a year parents expressed their outrage, with one claiming their daughter has had 13 teachers in four years. Two teaching staff left, so why was it necessary to hire nine unqualified staff in September?. This just does not add up.
January 2019 Ofsted Inspection, Special Measures: Since joining the REAch2 multi-academy trust in 2013, the school’s leadership and staffing have been turbulent. Several headteachers, leaders and other staff have left the school in this period. A remarkably mild criticism for a school that has just failed its Ofsted, the word 'several' clearly being understated to the extent of being misleading.
June 2019 Ofsted Monitoring Inspection: Since the inspection (five months earlier), a number of teachers and support staff have left. Currently nine classes from Reception to Year 6 are covered by unqualified teachers. You are intending to recruit 10 teachers to start in September 2019.... The quality of teaching remains highly variable. This is further exacerbated by the high level of staff changes or staff who are absent. The current staff list records a total of 18 class teachers from Reception to Year Six, so exactly half are unqualified according to Ofsted! If just two teaching staff left the school last summer, and staffing is very stable with no vacancies, as the Trust claimed in Kentonline (above), how come there are now nine unqualified staff? The truth is clearly very different from the extraordinary and false Trust claim (above) that 'Our staffing more generally is currently very stable, with no vacancies'.
Simon Wood, Executive Headteacher
Copperfield Academy clearly has a capable headteacher at present in Mr Wood with a strong, if controversial, record in headship. It is unclear what the title 'Executive' Headteacher implies, as he appears to be simply responsible for running one school. Most likely it is just a temporary post for him, as with the previous Executive Head two years earlier.
Mr Wood left his previous headship at Weyfield Primary Academy in Surrey over the Christmas holidays in December 2014, after just two years and without notice 'to pursue other educational opportunities', the usual phrase to cover losing one's job. This in spite of a published letter from his Member of Parliament which had a very different take the previous week, clearly with no clue as to what was to come over the imminent holiday.. He had taken on the post in 2012 when the school was classified Inadequate and rapidly took it up to Good, just before it was forced to become a TKAT academy in February 2013 (because of its previous Inadequate rating). You will find my views of the dreadful TKAT around that time here and later. An internet blog picked up by The Guardian suggests he was well respected at that time, typically: 'Then Simon Wood arrived, a bundle of positive energy with brilliant ideas to turn our school around'. However, it is clear that his relationship with TKAT, like that of many other headteachers at that time, deteriorated rapidly. Ofsted placed the school back in Special Measures nine months after his departure criticising the low standards in the school, but referring to improvements the previous year when Mr Wood had been in charge. This was Mr Wood's second headship and shortly before he left his previous post at Southwater Junior School in Horsham, where he had been head for three years, Ofsted wrote to say that under his leadership, the school remained Outstanding. Fortunately, he landed on his feet after Weyfield and became East Anglia Regional Director of REAch2 immediately afterwards, in January 2014, overseeing the work of 13 schools for four years before taking on his current role last September. This is surely a severe come down, unless Reach2 are eventually so embarrassed about their failures at Copperfield (they should be) that they have to sort it at any cost, with Mr Wood likely to resume a more senior role at the earliest opportunity.
Both Deputy Headteachers are ‘Acting’, presumably Trust trouble shooters, and so also very likely to move on. What will happen to the school and its children when the tide goes out again?
It is notoriously difficult to recruit qualified staff to a Special Measures School, as demonstrated by the abject failure of Copperfield to do so last September. What is astonishing is that both the of the two most recent Inspection Reports give permission for the school to appoint newly qualified teachers. With such an appalling record of staff turnover, suggesting complete failure by the Trust to support the school's teachers, the two approvals border on maladministration by Ofsted as well as betraying potential new teachers at the start of their careers.
After six years of failure by the Trust it has once again been forced to take short term action to improve matters. I remain unimpressed by the gloss that has produced this most recent report!