Third academy declared 'inadequate' by Ofsted

A £30m school created under the Government's flagship academy scheme has been given an "inadequate" rating by Ofsted following a visit by inspectors in July, making it the third such school to be placed in special measures. The verdict will come as a significant blow to Labour, particularly given that the school it replaced was not said to have been failing.

In 2004 an Ofsted report said that Waltheof school in Sheffield was making "reasonable progress", but it was nevertheless closed in September 2006. The school was then replaced by the Sheffield Park Academy, which moved into new buildings in April last year just 10 years after Waltheof had itself been rebuilt at a cost of £8m. The verdict on the academy, which is to be published later this week, rates it as "inadequate" in all categories and criticises its leadership and management.

Labour introduced the academy scheme to replace failing schools with semi-autonomous institutions directed by sponsors from industry as well as private individuals, universities and colleges. At the start of this school year 67 new academies opened, bringing the total to 200.

The United Learning Trust, an Anglican charity that includes on its board the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, sponsors Sheffield Park and a further 16 academies.

An inspection report from July 2008 highlighted the school's many problems, including that half of its pupils had learning difficulties and had test results significantly below the national average when they joined the school. Many also had "exceptionally low" reading ages.

The two previous academies to fail Ofsted inspections were the Unity City Academy in Middlesbrough, and the Richard Rose Central Academy in Carlisle. The former has since been given a "satisfactory" verdict.

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