Sponsor pulls out of academies

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The Independent Online

The biggest sponsor of the Government’s flagship academies programme was forced to pull out of plans to open two more after inspectors said one of its schools was making “inadequate” progress.

Sheffield Park academy, run by the United Learning Trust - a Christian charity, failed an inspection earlier this year.

A follow-up inspection completed earlier this month indicated it was making “inadequate” progress towards improving standards.

Ministers had already told ULT, which currently runs 17 academies, that they could not give the green light to any more until it had put its house in order.

Now it has pulled out of two – one in Oxford and another in Weston Favell, Northamptonshire, due to open next year – while it draws up an action plan to improve Sheffield Park.

In a statement today, Schools Secretary Ed Balls said: “This is unacceptable and I have expressed my very serious concern to ULT.”

The charity has undertaken to complete its action plan within three weeks.

The inspectors found that GCSE pass rates had improved last summer to 25 per cent getting five A* to C grades including maths and English.

However, widespread weaknesses - including too much dull teaching - was hampering the pupils’ progress. In the worst lessons, behaviour deteriorated further limiting progress and there was not enough support for the most vulnerable children.

A few students openly smoked whilst some felt it acceptable to use abusive language. Levels of overall attendance had not improved.