You will find the result of my initial FOI here, containing the surprising information that of the 22 full time and five part time teachers (this will have included the three senior leaders none of whom were class teachers) just five were unqualified at the time of the inspection, clearly contradicting the information provided by Ofsted of 'half the teachers'. Further, it tells us that the staff included just five teachers who had joined the school in September 2018 and that only four full time teachers have left during or are leaving at the end of this school year, along with two part-timers, to be replaced by ten new appointments in September 2019 (Ofsted). These ‘facts’ hardly meet the Ofsted description of ‘the high level of staff changes’, passing over the 'high level of staff who are absent' for the moment.
I did not go through a formal Internal Review request to explore my concerns, as these had been widened by the response to the FOI. Instead I wrote and expressed these to the Trust, receiving a courteous but inadequate and misleading attempt to justify the data in a reply which you will find in full here. This clearly confirms that the answer to my original FOI was false. The first point in my enquiry was that 'The recent Ofsted Monitoring Inspection carried out in May states: "currently nine classes from Reception to Year 6 are covered by unqualified teachers" but your data indicates four full time Unqualified Teachers (UQTs) and one part-time'. The Trust replied: "There is no discrepancy in this information. The school currently has nine members of staff working as ‘UQTs’ (Unqualified Teachers), across the school. By ‘UQT’ this means anyone who does not (yet) hold Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), or does not need to for their regular role. In some cases, their QTS is in progress; in others they hold relevant qualifications for the post they ‘typically’ hold, or they are HLTAs or lead LSAs, all of whom have covered classes to ensure continuity, stability and equity for our children".
To clarify. Academies are exempt from the requirement that class teachers need to hold Qualified Teacher Status. This is to enable them to employ exceptional people from outside of the profession, who will bring something extra to the job, as explained here: ‘Government officials say this means academies will be free to hire "great linguists, computer scientists and other specialists who have not worked in state schools before".’ This was never ever intended to allow the dilution of standards to include Higher Level Teaching Assistants or Learning Support Assistants who may have many excellent qualities but are not trained teachers. Those learning on the job, as they work towards Qualified Teacher Status should not have full responsibility for classes, the key being in the word 'training'. None of these should be used instead of trained teachers to cover up a shortage, with those on training schemes working to a part-time timetable under supervision.
So, the Ofsted report of nine UQTs is correct, the school claim of ‘just’ five is false, and the ‘explanation’ to try and equate the two is invalid.
My second point to the Trust demonstrates a different discrepancy. ‘You are intending to recruit 10 teachers to start in September 2019’. Given that there are just two teachers (one part-time) leaving by the end of the summer, this appears out of all proportion. Answer: 'This is not the case. Please refer to the answer to question 1 above'. The reference to question one confirms that Teaching Assistants who have been used to cover classes over the year, are simply standing down. I do have considerable sympathy for schools that are forced down this route through no fault of their own, but in the case of Copperfield this is surely a result of poor management producing a multi-failed school with an inevitable high turnover of staff
The whole charade is explained in the response to my third point that: 'staff who have been ‘covering’ classes will return to their substantive roles' (unless some of the ten new teachers don't arrive in which case the inadequate provision will continue). Covering Classes for a year can never be an adequate substitute for being taught by a trained teacher, the school apparently satisfied that these Teaching Assistants will 'ensure continuity, stability and equity for our children' . This may well be true, but parents have a right to expect their children will be taught and taught effectively as well.
None of what I have written should be taken as a criticism of the Teaching Assistants in this and many other schools who will step into the breach and do their very best to minimise the damage caused by the absence of a trained teacher.