Ofsted condemns academy chain E-Act

School pupils in a classroom Ofsted inspectors found "a lack of urgency" to tackle problems in the schools

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One of the biggest chains of academy schools in England has been heavily criticised by Ofsted in a letter.

The education standards watchdog has warned the E-Act Trust that it is failing to take effective action to improve standards in many of its schools.

Inspectors from Ofsted will visit 16 of the chain's schools in two weeks.

The Department for Education (DfE) said the performance of the schools was "extremely disappointing".

Ofsted inspectors had previously classified five of the academies they inspected as failing and requiring special measures, and a further six were classed as "requiring improvement".

'Poor quality teaching'

Ofsted says 10 of the institutions have failed to improve since that round of inspections, and six of those had actually deteriorated.

Inspectors found "poor quality teaching" in many of the academies, with coursework not matched to the ability levels of the pupils.

Lessons were often not challenging enough for brighter pupils, they said, and there was a "lack of urgency" in taking action to close the gap between disadvantaged children and their classmates.

Four of the chain's schools were judged to be good and just one, Heartlands Academy in Birmingham, was classified as "outstanding".

In a letter to the head of E-Act, Ofsted's regional director for the West Midlands, Lorna Fitzjohn, says "an overwhelming proportion of pupils attending the E-Act academies inspected were not receiving a good education".

"The evidence collected during these inspections indicates that intervention and support provided by E-Act was ineffective overall.

"For those academies judged to require 'special measures', the trust failed to take effective action to improve performance."

"There is an urgent need for E-Act to take action to tackle underperformance in a relatively large number of academies in the trust and to ensure that pupils' achievement rises to a good standard."

In a statement, the head of E-Act, David Moran, acknowledged that standards at some of the trust's academies were not acceptable.

"No-one should be in any doubt about E-Act's commitment to the task of improvement", he said.

"That commitment is driven by E-Act's mission to break the link between poverty and under-achievement."

He added that E-Act began making changes in May 2013, and is making "root and branch reforms" under new leadership.

"Crucially, going forward", he said, "we are focusing our resources and support where we are best placed to make a difference".

'Extremely disappointing'

Ofsted's national director of schools, Michael Cladingbowl said the inspections had shown that E-Act had "not been effective in improving its academies".

"While it is reassuring that some principals of individual academies report recent improvements to the Trust's leadership, inspectors have yet to see this impacting on standards", he said.

A Department for Education official said it was "extremely disappointing that pupils in a number of E-Act schools are not receiving the excellent education found in the majority of sponsored academies".

"We are taking swift action to address this and have already agreed in principle for four E-Act schools to transfer to new trusts.

"We are continuing to work with E-ACT to find new sponsors for the remaining schools they wish to re-broker.

"E-Act has also been issued with three new pre-warning notices.

"Underperformance in any school is unacceptable - whether it is an academy or a council-run school.

"Thanks to this government's reforms, there are a quarter of a million fewer children being taught in failing secondary schools compared to 2010 and almost 1,600 more schools rated good or outstanding by Ofsted compared to 2011."

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