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Schools trust is failing in mission, says Ofsted

By Dominic Robertson | Bridgnorth | Ofsted reports | Published:

An educational trust which runs 16 schools, including eight in Shropshire, has been strongly criticised by the national education watchdog.

The Bishop Anthony Educational Trust (BAET) has faced a range of criticism in the Ofsted report, with its failure to improve schools with significant weaknesses described as "unacceptable".

The trust runs Ludlow CE Secondary School, as well as the Hereford Academy.

It is also in charge a number of primary schools, including Condover C of E, St Edward's C of E in Dorrington, Morville C of E in Bridgnorth, Bishop's Castle, St George's C of E in Clun, Ludlow Junior School, and Ludlow Infants School.

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The report, from Ofsted inspector Matt Meckin, lays out a number of recommendations for the trust.

It also described the organisation as having failed in its original mission.

The report states: "BAET was set up with good moral intentions and a clear purpose of meeting an educational need in the community. However, this has failed.

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"Initially, the trust made a conscious decision to support several schools in challenging circumstances. Between 2016 and 2018, there was a rapid expansion, with 10 new schools joining the trust. As the trust has grown, it has not had the strategy or systems to support its schools effectively."

One particular concern about the organisation is its ability to help its weakest schools.

Backwards

The report states: "BAET has not been successful enough in improving the quality of education for pupils in schools where there are significant weaknesses. This is unacceptable. At the most recent inspections, three of the trust’s schools were judged to require special measures and one was judged to require improvement."

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The inspector also outlines how one of the Shropshire schools has gone backwards under the trust, to the extent that it was placed in special measures.

The report states: "Ludlow Infant and Nursery School was judged inadequate and requiring special measures from a predecessor school judgement of good."

Mr Meckin described senior trust officials as not knowing what the organisation was good or bad at.

However, he said the new chief executive understood the improvements required, and that the trust's headteachers were pleased with the changes implemented so far.

Extensive

The report states: "Trust senior leaders and directors have not had a good understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the trust. Systems to evaluate the effectiveness of the trust’s work and the implementation of their strategic plans for improvement have lacked rigour.

"The newly appointed interim chief executive officer (CEO) has an accurate view of the extensive improvements required and has begun to improve communication between the trust and school leaders. Headteachers are pleased with the changes instigated by the interim CEO."

The report also outlines the frustration of headteachers and governors at the organisation's impact.

It states: "Most headteachers and members of local governing bodies (LGB) accurately identify that the impact of the trust has been limited. Many are rightly frustrated with the quality of trust leadership and poor communication between BAET and its schools."

It adds: "A significant proportion of headteachers and governors expressed valid frustration at the quality of the trust’s support for finance, human resources and estate functions. Sometimes key changes are not communicated effectively."

CEO of failing education trust says changes are ‘already bearing fruit’

The CEO of the Bishop Anthony Educational Trust has said he is “disappointed” by the report but has vowed to face the challenges head-on.

Andrew Teale, chief executive officer of BAET took up his post in January, just months before Ofsted inspectors visited the multi-academy trust.

He said: “The results of the summary evaluation are very disappointing and we know we have a lot of work to do to ensure all our schools offer the fantastic educational opportunities our children deserve.

“However, I can confidently say that many of the points raised by Ofsted had been identified prior to their visit in March and it is pleasing that the evaluation acknowledges that progress is already being made.

“In the latter part of 2018 the Diocese of Hereford stepped up their involvement with the work of the trust when it became clear there were issues that needed addressing.

Leadership

“My appointment to the role as BAET’s new chief executive officer in January was as a direct result of the diocese’s concerns about the trust and the realisation that new leadership was required.

“Since taking direct control of the trust in January in my role as CEO, we have started a process to transform this multi-academy trust and provide better support for our academies.

“I have absolutely no doubt that the BAET has been moving in the right direction for the past few months and that the changes we have implemented are already beginning to bear fruit.

“Having worked in education, mostly in this diocese, for the last 25 years, I fully understand the scale of the challenge we are facing but I also know that, with the right leadership and the dedication and hard work of the staff in the schools, we can and will deliver the improvements that are needed.

“Significantly, four of our schools have had new headteacher appointments since the turn of the year.

“I would like to reassure everyone in the trust family that we are all absolutely committed to making the improvements required to meet the recommendations made in the Ofsted evaluation.”

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