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Friday, 03 July 2015

Barrow school takes Ofsted to court

STUNNED Furness Academy bosses took their fight for justice against a “misleading” and “flawed” Ofsted inspection outcome to the High Court.

Ofsted has issued Barrow’s academy with a ‘notice to improve’ after judging it to be “inadequate” in its “overall effectiveness”, because maths did not yet reach the nationally expected level.

Publication of the report, of the inspection which took place at the end of January, was delayed until this evening as academy leaders complained to Ofsted, and also wrote to Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools,

Sir Michael Wilshaw, and the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, about “fundamental problems” in applying the new inspection framework so rigidly to an academy so young.

The academy, which opened in September 2009, and replaced three old schools, has been judged using a five-year measure of student achievement, which the academy say “cannot legitimately” be applied to it as it “can only be accountable for achievement and provision from September 2009 onwards.”

Yesterday the academy applied for an injunction at the High Court, in London, to stop the report being published as it stands and until an investigation was completed.

The application was not granted but judge, Mr Justice Collins, said the key inspection judgements were “untrue and unfair”, and said in all areas other than maths the academy was at least satisfactory and in many ways good.

The judge required Ofsted to provide a covering letter with the report making it clear that, but for maths, the academy would have been judged satisfactory.

 - Here is the full Furness Academy letter to parents

14 March 2012

Dear Parents/Careers

‘Furness Academy wins support of High Court Judge’

On 25 and 26 January 2012 Ofsted conducted a Section 5 Inspection of Furness Academy using the new 2012 Inspection Framework.

Yesterday (Tuesday) in the High Court, Mr Justice Collins agreed with us by declaring that the key ‘Inspection judgements’ from the inspection (report enclosed and on our website), were “untrue and unfair”.

He said that it was untrue that our overall effectiveness was inadequate just because Maths was not yet reaching
the nationally expected levels. He went further, saying to the court that in all areas other than Maths, the Academy
was at least satisfactory and in many ways good.

He reflected that although he wasn't going to issue an injunction to prevent publication, the Academy had to be
treated fairly. He required Ofsted to issue a covering letter with the report, “making it explicitly clear that but for
Maths the Academy would have been judged to be satisfactory” (letter also enclosed and on our website).

Mr Justice Collins stated that people cannot properly use this report as an overall condemnation of the Academy.


Our inspection was one of the first to be carried out under the new ‘Inspection Framework for Schools and
Academies 2012’. We believe there to be fundamental problems in applying this framework so rigidly to an
academy as young as we are. I will illustrate in detail later in this letter exactly why that is.

The report itself is extremely positive in so many ways, so its main content should provide reassurance and
confidence to students and parents. It is most disappointing, however, that it is to be published now, with its key
judgements unchanged, as we are still in dialogue with Ofsted regarding what we believe to be these fundamental
flaws, and their investigation into our submission and evidence is still in process.

Whilst we are not unhappy with most elements of the report, we had sought an injunction to prevent its publication
until due process was complete, during which time we believed some serious matters of principle and procedure
would be appropriately addressed, and the key inspection judgements adjusted.

We will continue to pursue our submission to Ofsted through the normal Complaints Procedure mechanism and I
will inform you of the outcome in due course.

Main Concerns

Ofsted, alongside other evidence, uses RAISEonline data to assess students’ achievements. This weighed so
heavily upon their final ‘Student Achievement’ judgement in our report, especially with regard to mathematics. Our
latest national data, ‘RAISEonline 2011’, measures student outcomes against expected rates of progress from the
students’ starting point, which is their Key Stage 2 National Curriculum levels achieved and reported in May 2006.

We assert that this is inappropriate and misleading, given that the first three years of that five year period
(September 2006 to August 2009) were spent in three predecessor schools entirely independent of the Academy.

Our submission to Ofsted is simple and is illustrated succinctly in the following statement:

Furness Academy can only be accountable for achievement and provision from September 2009 onwards.

Progress since the Section 8 Monitoring Inspection last March

The Academy has progressed in a really ambitious, positive and determined way, so much so that representatives
of the ‘Office of the Schools' Commissioner’ visited the Academy recently (December 2011) to discover how such
significant progress had been made so quickly.

Students and parents should be pleased and reassured by that, alongside proper consideration of the detailed
evidence of progress made since our Section 8 Monitoring Visit. We have not only met the targets set for us at the
time, but have comfortably exceeded them all, as the following hard evidence proves.

Improving student attainment from Year 1, with particular reference to GCSE results, has been comfortably and
comprehensively achieved. The key benchmark figure of 5 x A* - C (including English and Maths) rose from 33%
to 49%, which is not only an increase of 16 percentage points, but puts our results for 2011 at 14 percentage
points above the Government's own floor targets.

English results improved from 44% to 73%, which is above the national average. Maths results improved from
44% to 57%; although not yet at the national average, they will continue to improve rapidly towards that mark
(indeed this year we are expecting a further increase of 14 percentage points in the number of students expected
to make the required levels of progress). Science results too have improved significantly with the number of
students achieving at least 2 x A* - C passes rising from 50% to 71% in just one year.

Improving the 'Quality of Teaching' regarding the number of ‘good or better’ lessons has also clearly been
achieved. In Year 1 the figure for this indicator was 44% rising to 50% in Year 2. Our records show this figure to
be above 70% in Year 3 and during the inspection, of the 48 lessons observed, Ofsted judged 71% of them to
be ‘good or better’.

Exclusions had been a concern too but these have now fallen dramatically and without lowering standards.
Student behaviour is now good overall as the reduction in exclusions demonstrates. Permanent Exclusions have
fallen from 13 in Year 1 to 1 in Year 3, with Fixed Term Exclusions now being only 25% of what they were when
we first opened.

Finally, attendance has risen sharply from 88.5% in Year 1 to 91% in Year 2 and is now running at 93% in Year 3.

This obvious progress and significant successes are down to excellent teamwork. Sponsors and governors,
along with students, staff, parents and the Local Authority, have worked hard in partnership with each other to
secure the rapid and sustained progress which students now benefit from every day. This will continue in a most
determined manner, not only while Ofsted's internal investigation continues, but also into the future.

What has been achieved so far is incredible given the very complex merger of three organisations into one,
across two sites and into old and unfit buildings, but we are not complacent. We now look forward to attempting
to establish, with Ofsted, a legitimate and fair recognition of our progress to date as we look to accelerate our
continual cycle of improvement as we prepare for our single site merger into our new, state of the art buildings in
September 2013.

With kindest regards,

Douglas Blackledge

  • For the full story, see tomorrow’s Evening Mail
Have your say

i go to furness academy and im about to leave thank god! this school is a disaster and im not saying that because everyone else thinks it im saying that because of personal experience, i got sent home last thursday three english lessons before my gcse exam in english because i did have the right material shoes, i have all over black shoes but they werent faux leather. but extreme dont you think? i also had experienced before in the past they are not good at there behaviour methods. i got beat up in year 9 and i was the one that got put in isolation and the other girl got let of cause she was crying! i also experienced harsh and uneeded comments about me from a member of staff and my mum went to mr blackledge and he didnt do anything in the slightest! i though school days were meant to be fun and they are meant to be the best days of your life i havent yet had one single day at school were i have actually enjoyed it. they care more about your appereance than getting you good grade, becasue getting sent home just because of shoes couple of days before a proper gcse exam is abit extreme and i will tell mr blackledge if i get a bad grade how bad he is as a teacher!!!!!

Posted by student at furness academy year 11 on 31 May 2012 at 09:34

At the end of the day, if your child wants to learn they will regardless of which school they go to. My son is in year 10 at Furness Academy and is doing very well, on the other hand he has a friend who was excluded because he wasn't interested and has since been excluded from another school, let's give the Academy a break. it isn't always the school that is at fault.

Posted by eleanor on 23 March 2012 at 08:10

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