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Education News

A school sponsored by an independent chain fails its inspection

A school which recently converted to an academy after being sponsorsed by one of the country's largest independent school chains has failed its inspection, in an embarrassment for the Government.

The verdict will not be welcomed by David Cameron, who is trying to persuade all the country's leading independent schools to sponsor academies because of their supposed transformative powers.

The Sir Robert Woodard Academy in Lancing, West Sussex, was described as "inadequate" in its report by Ofsted, the education standards watchdog. GCSE standards have fallen in the two years since the former Boundstone College – twice described as one of the most improved schools in the country in its days as a local authority maintained state school – converted to academy status. It was handed over to Woodard Schools, which runs a chain of independent schools, including £26,000-a-year King's College in Taunton, Somerset. The Ofsted report concluded: "[The school] is failing to give its students an acceptable standard of education."

The Prime Minister has written to leading independent schools urging them to sponsor academies. So far a handful – including Wellington College – have done so, while others, including Eton, have forged links with neighbouring academies.

Lord Adonis, Schools Minister during Labour's term in office, also said he would like to see the independent sector's DNA transferred to state schools through the academies programme. Tim Rose, a former teacher at Sir Robert Woodard Academy, said: "If this is an example of the DNA of the private sector being injected into the state system, then I think we could do without it."

The Ofsted report also criticised the school's leadership, saying: "The persons responsible for leading, managing or governing the academy are not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvement."

Principal Carole Bailey handed in her resignation after the GCSE results before the inspection took place. After the report, her leaving date was brought forward from July this year.

The school's governing body has also been sacked and replaced with an interim board. A new "super head" with a track record of turning around failing schools, Colette Singleton, has been appointed. Woodard Academies Trust said in a statement it was "working hard to tackle issues" at the school.