Years of below par results and progress have seen The Littlehampton Academy labelled as ‘coasting’ by the Department for Education.
The news was broken to parents in a letter on February 14, along with assurances that work to raise the achievements of students was already having a “significant impact”.
Chief education officer Paul Kennedy said of the coasting label: “It’s not so much a concern as it’s all based on historic data and it’s nothing we weren’t aware of. We knew it was coming and it’s not a surprise for us.
“But this is looking backwards and we’re looking forward.”
Key Stage 4 schools are categorised as coasting if they fail to meet certain criteria.
These include the need for 60 per cent of pupils to achieve five A*-C GCSEs, including English and maths, in 2014 and 2015, and for its Progress 8 score to be at least -0.25 in 2016.
The academy’s Progress 8 score was -0.45, which was below the national average, while the percentage of students earning grade C in English and maths was 36 per cent in 2014 and 43 per cent in 2015. In 2016, that figure rose to 55 per cent.
Academies which are found to be coasting are placed under the watchful eye of the regional schools commissioner – in this case Dominic Herrington – who supports leaders as they work to bring things up to scratch.
In the worst case scenario, should the Woodard Academies Trust fail to show it is capable of bringing about improvement, Mr Herrington has the power to bring in a new sponsor.
Mr Kennedy, though, said he was very confident all issues would be addressed – a view supported by the progress that has been made since the appointment of Morgan Thomas as principal.
The academy’s latest Ofsted inspection saw it brought out of special measures, with Mr Thomas being praised for the rapid transformation he had brought about.
Mr Kennedy said the trust had already submitted an action plan to the Department for Education but had yet to receive a response.
He added that, because none of the team had any experience with coasting schools, they did not know what shape the support offered by Mr Herrington would take.
Mr Kennedy acknowledged that things “needed to improve” at the academy but assured parents: “The leadership of the academy has changed rapidly. We’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing for the last 12 months.
“We’ve already taken the school out of special measures and we’re keen to continue on that path of rapid improvement.”
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