Free school fails to enter any year 11 pupils for GCSEs because they are 'not mature enough'

Pupils at Route 39 Academy were ‘neither ready academically nor sufficiently mature or resilient’ to take the compulsory exams, according to school leaders

Rachael Pells
Education Correspondent
Thursday 27 July 2017 13:29
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Route 39 Academy opened in 2013 and aims eventually to have 700 students
Route 39 Academy opened in 2013 and aims eventually to have 700 students

A free school has been put into special measures after it failed to enter any Year 11 pupils into GCSE examinations, in what inspectors called an “unreasonable and unorthodox” step.

The Route 39 Academy in Devon said its students were “neither academically ready nor sufficiently mature or resilient” to take the end of year exams, according to an Ofsted inspection.

The school – which is state-funded but not controlled by a local authority – said it “strongly refutes” Ofsted’s judgement of the inspection which deemed the school “inadequate”.

An introduction to the school on its website claims its students “have the very best education that the 21st century can provide”.

Route 39 Academy has 138 pupils on its roll and had a two-day analysis last month.

The inspectors’ report concluded the school was failing on all four criteria it measures.

It said: “The decision to hold back an entire cohort is an unreasonable and unorthodox one.

“Leaders and governors state that the pupils in Year 11 are neither academically ready nor sufficiently mature or resilient to have taken the examinations.

“They state that, had they taken the examinations at the usual time, these pupils would have significantly underperformed and attained at low levels.

“This is an admission that the school’s curriculum and its delivery have not met the needs of pupils by ensuring that they make good progress and are ready for the next stage of their education, employment or training.”

Inspectors added the failure to enter pupils into exams was a breach of “statutory requirements and the school’s own funding agreement”.

The governing body of the academy said in a letter to parents: “We strongly refute the judgement and the manner in which the inspection was handled.

“There was a disproportionate focus on our decision to enter 13 Year 11 students for GCSEs in 2018, and a lack of adherence to Ofsted’s own inspection handbook.

“As a result, we have challenged Ofsted and have issued a complaint.”

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The school said the pupils who did not take their GCSEs this summer had experienced an “unsettled Year 7 at other schools and wanted a new start”.

“Some parents felt that their children – who came to Route 39 Academy with low attainment – would benefit from an extra year academically and emotionally,” the letter added.

Route 39 Academy was told it required improvement following its first ever inspection two years ago.

According to the North Devon Gazette, the school called an urgent meeting with parents earlier this week in response to the latest Ofsted outcome.

The school’s principle, Jordan Kelly, said: “I would like to thank all of our current and incoming parents for the incredibly high levels of support in response to this report.

“I urge any prospective parents, or members of the community, to come and visit our school community and judge it for themselves.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said:‎ “We are aware of the issues at Route 39 Academy and following its recent Ofsted report we are in contact with the school to find out how they intend to bring about the rapid and sustained improvement required.‎

“Every pupil deserves an excellent education and if we are not content with the school’s response we will consider alternative measures, including – if necessary – transferring it to a new high-performing sponsor.”‎ ‎

Additional reporting by PA

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