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Do you think Roke Primary should become an academy?

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Dear 

I attach a copy of a letter I have received from Lord Nash, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools, regarding the sponsorship of Roke Primary School.

I know this will come as a disappointment to you but it would appear that despite all our representations, the decision has been made that Harris Academy will provide the back-up to Roke – and not Riddlesdown Collegiate.

I will continue to make representations on your behalf. You will note that there will be a formal local consultation.

Yours faithfully,

Richard Ottaway

 

19th February 2013

Dear Mr Ottaway

Thank you for your letter dated 15 January addressed to the Secretary of State

regarding the sponsorship of Roke Primary School, Croydon. I am responding as the

Minister responsible for this policy area.

I would like to start by saying that outcomes for pupils are the most important

concern for us. We are very clear there is an urgent need to tackle those primary

schools which are underperforming - we want to help schools like Roke, which

despite the best efforts of the staff and local authority, are not performing as well as

they should. We believe a substantially different solution is required and that the

support of a strong sponsor is the best way to make Roke improve quickly and

ensure that improvements are sustained.

As you are aware, Ofsted gave the school a Notice to Improve in May 2012. Ofsted

deemed that the school requires significant improvement because it is performing

significantly less well than in all the circumstances it could be reasonably expected to

perform and that significant improvement is required in relation to the leadership and

management of the school.

Ofsted carried out a monitoring visit on 16 January 2013 to assess the progress of

the school since the full inspection in May. Ofsted judged overall that the school is

making satisfactory progress in addressing the issues for improvement and in raising

the pupils' achievement. Therefore, the school remains 'eligible for intervention' as

the Notice to Improve from May remains in force.

We acknowledge the school is making satisfactory progress towards the removal of

the Notice to Improve. However, whilst the school has made some improvements the

Ofsted monitoring inspection highlighted that there is still limited evidence that these

are secure and sustainable, and as a result the school and its pupils remain

vulnerable with a considerable amount of work still to be done.

We have carefully considered the outcome of the monitoring visit, representations

from Malcolm Farquharson (Chair of Governors at Roke) and yourself, as well as

Riddlesdown Collegiate's work with Roke. We are also aware that some parents

share your view that Riddlesdown should sponsor Roke. Having considered all the

relevant factors, we maintain the view that the Harris Federation remains the best

and strongest sponsor for Roke. We recognise that you, the school and your

constituents will find this disappointing but we feel firmly that this is in the best

interests of the pupils at the school.

The pupils at Roke deserve the best possible education and Roke needs to improve

urgently to address this, which it will be able to do with a strong and proven sponsor.

Harris is one of our very best Academy sponsors with an exceptional primary team.

Sir Robin Bosher, who is Director of Primary Education at Harris, is a leader with an

outstanding track record of transforming London primary schools.

Harris has confirmed it wishes to support Roke out of the Notice to Improve and

bring about the improvements needed, not only in pupil progress but also

management systems and leadership. Nine Harris Academies are rated by Ofsted as

"Outstanding". Harris also has experience of turning around previously

underperforming schools in London. We understand that Sir Robin has been

working with Roke since we confirmed that Harris was our preferred sponsor.

Turning to the issue of Riddlesdown as a sponsor, officials carefully considered the

school as a potential sponsor for underperforming schools. When considering a

school as a potential sponsor the Department explores a range of indicators

including the schools results, their Ofsted rating, their long term capacity to support a

school needing rapid improvement, and their experience of delivering educational

services at primary and secondary level. Officials took all those factors into account

and as a result Riddlesdown has not yet been accepted into the Department's

Academy sponsor pool. fficials have offered to work with Riddlesdown to further

develop their evidence base with a view to becoming a sponsor in the near future.

Once accepted into the pool, schools are matched to an underperforming school on

a case by case basis. Therefore, Riddlesdown may have received the message that

they would be a good potential sponsor for underperforming schools, but this is not

to say that they were the best fit for Roke. In addition, we understand that

Riddlesdown are negotiating a contract with Prospects Education Services to provide

primary specialist support. We note that in 2012 Riddlesdown's percentage of pupils

achieving 5+ A*-C including English and maths fell by 10% compared to the previous

year and they face a number of challenges of their own.

We understand concerns have been raised by parents about the implications of

Harris sponsoring Roke and if this will affect Riddlesdown's ability to recruit Roke

pupils in the future. We would like to make it clear that it would not be necessary for

Riddlesdown to review its admission arrangements to accommodate pupils from

Roke. There is no reason why Riddlesdown cannot continue to recruit pupils from

Roke should the latter become a sponsored Academy.

We recognise the importance of formal local consultation and this is a legal

requirement before any school can open as an Academy. The formal consultation is

usually started when the proposed sponsor has been identified by the Department,

the governing body has met with, and agreed to be sponsored by this sponsor, and

the proposal has been given Ministerial approval to be taken forward. From

experience, consultation is most meaningful when the proposed sponsor, rather than

the Department, is involved in the process as they are able to set out the specific

benefits their involvement will bring to the school.

I would like to end by saying that I am happy to accept your invitation to meet and

discuss my decision if you would like to do so. Please could someone contact my

Diary Secretary, Cassandra Flavius, on Nash-Diary.PS@education.gsi.gov.uk to

arrange a mutually convenient time.

LORD JOHN NASH

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools