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'Inadequate' Grantham schools to be taken over

Two ‘inadequate’ Grantham schools are to be taken over by a Nottingham trust.

West Grantham Academy St Hugh’s and St John’s will become part of the Archway Learning Trust.

Letters explaining the move went out to parents this week. Regional director of Archway Learning Trust Stuart Anderson has told parents that the move will take place after Easter.

St Hugh’s will change its name to Bluecoat Meres Academy and St John’s to Bluecoat Meres Primary Academy and there will be some support for families with uniform costs for current students.

Mr Anderson said this is a positive move for both schools. He said: “To date, the performance of these schools has not been as strong as it needs to be and that needs to change for the good of your children and for the reputation of your community. We are clear that we are here to drive up standards and look forward to working in partnership with you to do this.”

Last year, Ofsted rated St Hugh’s as ‘inadequate’ although executive headteacher Susan Dench was praised, with inspectors saying she “helped rescue the school from a position of near chaos”. A follow-up report said progress was being made to address ‘serious weaknesses’.

St John’s was also rated as ‘inadequate’ in its latest Ofsted report, but the last monitoring report in November last year said staff were “taking effective action towards the removal of special measures”.

Mr Anderson added: “There will be a number of changes to things as the transfer begins to take place. Whilst some of these will be around routines in the building, there will also be some additional staffing changes as Archway bring some of its staff to help support key areas of the school.

“Moreover, the shape of the curriculum will alter to make sure that your child has the best opportunities to be successful. These are genuinely really exciting times for the school and your children.”

The Journal asked Mr Anderson if staff changes would affect the post of executive headteacher, currently held by Susan Dench, and her senior staff, and if he would address the concerns of staff who had contacted the Journal.

Mr Anderson would only respond by saying: “We are really looking forward to working with staff, students and families in the coming months. However, I can confirm that the board of directors will change, as is normal in these circumstances.”

Archway Learning Trust has four secondary schools and one primary in Nottingham. It says it has a very successful track record of improving schools and offers a range of support and expertise.

St Hugh’s and St John’s have both been seen a number of staff members leave in recent months.

One parent, who has a son with special educational needs at the academy, resigned as a member of the board of directors recently. Suzanne Davison-Allott said she no longer had faith in the board, and added: “Nor do I wish to support the direction in which the trust is heading.”

She said: “My intention on joining the board was to support the trust in making positive changes to the running of the academies, but the increasing feelings of staff members are that they are working in a culture
of fear.”

She added: “It is my sincere hope that the board makes the most appropriate judgements for the running of the academies in order to provide both pupils and staff with a positive and nurturing environment in which to thrive.”

Another staff member of the West Grantham Academy, who wishes to remain anonymous, recently wrote to the current chair of the board of governors, Cherry Edwards, with concerns about the primary school. The employee said that in the past 12 months there had been several investigations “shrouded in secrecy” where colleagues had been investigated for unspecified reasons and had either left or resigned as a result without explanation.

The employee said: “I feel unsupported in my role, demoralised about the future of the academy, fearful that if I make a mistake that I too will be unjustly held to account and frankly I feel voiceless. Ofsted recently noted that the school is making good progress towards the removal of special measures.”

Chair of the board of directors Mrs Edwards confirmed the transfer of the schools is due to be completed by May 1.

She said: “It is believed that the Archway Learning Trust has the proven credibility and capacity to support our schools to further develop the quality of our educational provision to be good and outstanding in the future.”

As well as being regional director of the Archway Learning Trust, Mr Anderson is also principal at the Bluecoat Wollaton Academy in Nottingham, a new school which was rated as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted following its first inspection in May 2018. In his letter he said: “I have worked in schools in Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire previously and am convinced that the trust will be able to help support and develop your child’s school too. I also work as an Ofsted inspector.”

He added: “Archway - and the Bluecoat Schools within it- has a great reputation for being both exceptionally inclusive but also for being places where students thrive academically, socially and spiritually too. Pupils don’t get a second chance and they and their community needs a school with is going to help transform their lives. Archway is fully committed to working with its young people and their families to make that happen.

“It’s a really wonderful move for the two schools as they move into our family of schools. Not only are we clear that standards must rise but we know that our experience with church schools in Nottingham can help to support the young people in Grantham too.

“We appreciate that these may appear uncertain times for parents but we will continue to share news openly and all parents will be invited to meet with staff before the transition and share their thoughts.”

Stuart Anderson, regional director of Archway Learning Trust. Picture: Ian Hodgkinson / Picture It (7490460)
Stuart Anderson, regional director of Archway Learning Trust. Picture: Ian Hodgkinson / Picture It (7490460)

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