Flagship Nottingham University-sponsored academy warned of unacceptable standards


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The Independent Online

A flagship academy, sponsored by a leading Russell Group university, has been told by ministers its standards are “unacceptably low”.

Nottingham University Samworth Academy has been told by Schools Minister Lord Nash, who is responsible for free schools and academies, it must improve or face further government intervention to raise standards.

It is one of 40 academies sent “pre-warning” letters by the Government telling them they must pull their socks up - a figure up from 34 last November.

Lord Nash’s letter follows a report by education standards watchdog Ofsted, which concluded that “students make inadequate progress in English, maths and most other subjects because teaching is inadequate".

It added: “The behaviour and safety of students are inadequate. The exclusion rate is too high, attendance is low and punctuality is poor.”

“Academy leaders and governors have had no impact on improving teaching and learning. Consequently, the quality of teaching has declined to inadequate.”

Lord Nash’s letter raises concern that in 2012, only 35 per cent of pupils obtained five A* to C grade GCSE passes, including in English and maths, 23 percentage points below the national average and 17 percentage points below the Government’s minimum target for schools. By 2013, the figure had fallen to 32 per cent.

If the academy fails to improve, the Government can appoint its own directors to help with the running of the academy.

NUSA, as it known, is sponsored jointly by Nottingham University - one of the 24 leading higher education research institutions in the Russell Group - and the charity The Samworth Trust. Ministers have been anxious to encourage top universities to sponsor academies.

Professor Alan Ford, pro-vice-chancellor for teaching and learning at Nottingham University, said: “NUSA was rated ‘good’ by Ofsted in July 2012. But as soon as it became clear that this year’s GCSE results were not where they should be, we put a plan of action in place to improve teaching and learning, strengthen management and leadership and improve results for pupils at NUSA.”

The university and the Samworth Trust have now gone into partnership with school improvement experts, the Torch Academy Gateway Trust, to improve standards at the academy.

NUSA is one of six schools to receive pre-warning letters from Lord Nash since the Department for Education’s records were last updated in November. In addition, another academy, the Gloucester Academy, has progressed to receiving an official warning letter - as a result of not making sufficient improvements since receipt of the pre-warning letter.

Lord Nash has told the Gloucester Academy that he and Education Secretary Michael Gove are “satisfied the unacceptably low standards of performance have not been remedied”.