Friday, 12 December 2014

Lewisham LA *still* dodging the central question about Sedgehill school

I've had a reply to my challenge letter shown in the previous post on this blog.  Of my three questions, I'm satisfied that they have at least answered two.  Key points on those:

  • There seems to be no further formal appeals route (though in terms of process they have yet to get permission from the secretary of state to implement the IEB.  I'm sure they've politicked that bit behind the scenes already but the point stands)
  • Lewisham are confident that Ofsted back their view, because it was in fact Ofsted who rejected the governing body's appeal against the warning notice.

However I note that crucially they chose not to answer the most central question I posed: "Why you think the extreme disruption this will inevitably cause will achieve better outcomes for the children."

All parties in both camps agree that improvement is required. That is not in question.   This whole row comes down to two critical differences in opinion:

  1. The school thinks it is on track for rapid, sustainable, improvement, under existing arrangements including a detailed improvement plan already supported by another high performing school.  The LA and Ofsted both think it is not.
  2. The school, its parents and its children (this feels like the more important groups!) believe that on balance the imposition of an IEB, particularly with no support at all from all the key groups, will do far more harm than good in terms of exam results.  They also think it will destroy the roundly applauded ethos and pastoral care that the school is known and loved for.  The LA have refused to reply to this challenge (see the text below)
I'll draw your attention to formal guidance given to (local authority) clerks to governing bodies when applying for permission to implement an IEB  (my emphasis), taken from :

"The LA should be able to demonstrate... that recovery / improvement is more likely as a result of the IEB being established"

There is strong evidence to the contrary.  But so far the LA is silent and must come forward on this point.

Finally, I note with interest one little sentence in today's reply: "The risk that this may lead to intervention by the Department for Education is too great. None of us would want that to happen."  

I do wonder what MS Sulke means by this - I'm trying to think what could be worse than what the LA is already proposing.  But I can imagine how it would be awkward for the LA.  I hope this is not part of their incentive set here.

Text of today's reply:

Dear Mr Mann


Thank you for your e-mail to Frankie Sulke on 10th December 2014.

You ask about our grounds for issuing the warning notice and the appeal process. We served a warning notice under Section 60 of the 2006 Education and Inspections Act on 24 October 2014. We have a duty to do so in a range of circumstances, including where we consider there are unacceptably low standards. This is not disputed by the governing body of the school. They agree that current outcomes are too low, pupils do not make sufficient progress and that the achievements of those pupils for whom the school receives a pupil premium (some 55% currently) are unacceptable.

However the governing body challenged the warning notice, which is their right to do so. Consequently our warning notice was reviewed by Ofsted.

In the course of this review they scrutinised the evidence received from the Chair of the Governing Body and from the Council and also reviewed the most recent inspection reports and published performance data. This then gives us very good insight into Ofsted’s current thinking, which I believe addresses your second question.

This is what Ofsted said in rejecting the appeal against the warning notice: “Improvement has not been consistent, rapid enough or sustained over time. Consequently, this review finds that the scale of issues facing the school is significant and raises concerns with regard to the capacity of the school to raise standards sufficiently and rapidly.

“The grounds for issuing the warning notice are justified and proportionate. The standards of performance of pupils at the school are unacceptably low, and are likely to remain so.”

I do not believe in these circumstances that Ofsted would be happy to wait a bit longer, as you suggest we should do, without further inspection. Rather, it is very likely that the school would have been subject to a 'no notice' inspection by Ofsted. These have recently been introduced for schools which are particularly causing concern on their data. The risk that this may lead to intervention by the Department for Education is too great. None of us would want that to happen.

Neither do I think that armed with this full knowledge, we can or should wait to act. The Council has a duty to all the children and young people who are educated in the borough and we feel very strongly that for the sake of the progress of the pupils attending Sedgehill now and in years to come, decisive action must be taken to address the very real challenges the school faces.


Margaret Anderson

On behalf of Frankie Sulke
Executive Director for Children and Young People

1 comment:

  1. The LA's plan is rather like saying, 'You have a cut on your leg which could lead to gangrene. So, we're going to cut off your leg now. You know, in order to save it.'