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Primary faces switch to academy status after ‘inadequate’ rating

Governors lodge appeal as education chief attacks inspectors’ ‘harsh’ judgment

12 May, 2017 — By Koos Couvée

Hungerford School

A HOLLOWAY primary is the latest Islington school set to be taken away from Town Hall control following a damning inspection report which branded it “inadequate”.

Hungerford Primary School is likely to be forced to become an academy under government rules. Failing schools must either become an academy or be closed down.

Three years ago, the school and children’s centre were rated “good” and considered one of the top 250 schools in the country for improving the chances of deprived children.

But inspectors last week concluded it was failing, citing a range of concerns, including claims that leaders and governors have not taken effective action to prevent a decline in pupils’ achievement, that the curriculum is too narrow, that pupils make slow progress and the quality of teaching is inadequate.

However, governors are expected to appeal the judgment. Town Hall chiefs and the teachers’ union are opposed to forced conversion to academy status.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) Islington branch criticised Ofsted, claiming that conversion to academy status makes no sense if the objective is to improve the school.

The union praised Hungerford for keeping children in education who might otherwise have ended up excluded. It pointed to the fact that Hungerford has one of the highest rates of children on free school meals in the country.

Cllr Joe Caluori

“Under this government, schools and communities in inner London and elsewhere are facing the impact of rising rates of child poverty and increasing anxiety about the future that is having a marked effect on children’s behaviour,” Tony Buttifint, Islington NUT branch secretary, said.

“This is made worse by the increasing difficulty of recruiting teachers, especially experienced teachers, to face that challenge. A negative Ofsted grade makes it harder.”

Inspectors visited the school over four days in November and December last year. But they had to inspect the school again in March after mixing up their findings with those for a school by the same name in Berkshire.

In a statement, governors said: “Hungerford School and its governing body are unhappy with the report and are making an appeal, known to Ofsted as a complaint. This is unlikely to halt the process of academisation but we want our objections registered.”

Clerkenwell Parochial School and Highbury Grove School are also on the way to becoming part of academy trusts after recently being found “inadequate”.

Islington education chief Councillor Joe Caluori described the Ofsted judgement as “harsh”, adding that a “requires improvement” rating would have been fairer.

“I don’t think that any judgement that leads to the school becoming an academy is the right one,” he said. “There’s evidence that the local authority [Islington] are working really well with the school to improve things that are not right.

“Time after time Ofsted says there’s evidence that the support the local authority have provided has been really strong and yet they make recommendations that gear towards removing the school from the local authority. It seems really strange, especially when we’ve got a school improvement record better than most academy chains.

“Academisation is wrong for this school on the basis of this report. They should reconsider that.”

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