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.
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