THE Government says it will step in if Sunderland’s flagship academy does not improve.
Academy 360 has been issued with a notice letter from Lord Nash, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, saying the standards of performance at GCSE are unacceptably low.
If the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, is not satisfied with the school’s plans for improvement, he can issue an official warning notice. If this is not complied with, he can appoint additional directors to the academy trust board.
The Pennywell school was opened as the city’s only all-age academy in 2008 as part of a £120million investment in education on Wearside.
It has since had turbulent times, including the resignation of original headteacher Paul Prest, and being issued with a notice to improve by Ofsted inspectors, which has now been lifted.
In his letter, Lord Nash said: “While considerable improvements have been made at Key Stage 2, performance at Key Stage 4 is still not secure.
“In 2013, the academy was below the national floor standard and significant, sustained improvements have not been made since 2011. Attainment improved by just two percentage points between 2011 (35 per cent) to 2013 (37 per cent).”
He said Mr Gove is also concerned the school has been without a permanent principal since September 2011. Sir Ken Gibson, who took up the role as executive headteacher in September last year, said: “We are addressing the concerns raised by the Department for Education, and we have been since my arrival.
“The primary results were fantastic, but the secondary is a work in progress. There have been many improvements in the last 12 months. We will just continue to work hard to improve on the areas which have been raised and other equally important areas.”
Coun Pat Smith, portfolio holder for children’s services at Sunderland City Council, said: “Clearly it is extremely disappointing the Department for Education has issued this pre-warning. Our concern is that the children and young people attending the school get the very best possible educational experience and are able to achieve their full potential. This means that the action plan for improvement must be taken forward urgently and effectively in the New Year.”
A DfE spokesman said: “We will not tolerate long-term under performance in any school — including in an academy.”
He said most academies respond well to pre-warning letters and warning notices and achieve better results afterwards.