Threat to withdraw funding for Sheffield academy unless improvements made

A Sheffield academy has received a warning notice from the Department for Education and a threat to withdraw its funding over “not making necessary improvements”.
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The Birley Academy, which is run by the Nottingham-based L.E.A.D. Academy Trust, says it is “working extremely hard” to raise standards. The secondary school was formerly Birley Community College and Ofsted had criticised pupils using derogatory language which can lead to fighting.

Alison Wilson, Department for Education (DfE) regional director for Yorkshire and the Humber, issued the warning notice for The Birley Academy. She said it follows on from discussions with the academy trust, dating back to last June when the school was told it was not making necessary improvements.

The trust was told in September 2023 that the termination warning notice would follow if “rapid and sustained improvements” did not take place and that was applied in January.

The Birley Academy in Sheffield has been issued with a notice to make urgent improvements by the Department for EducationThe Birley Academy in Sheffield has been issued with a notice to make urgent improvements by the Department for Education
The Birley Academy in Sheffield has been issued with a notice to make urgent improvements by the Department for Education
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Ms Wilson wrote: “The Birley Academy joined L.E.A.D. Academy Trust in February 2017. The academy joined the trust with a history of under-performance.

“Since joining the trust, the academy has received two Section 5 Ofsted inspections which judged the school as requires improvement on both occasions.

Concerned

“The first inspection in the trust judged the academy requires improvement overall (but good in personal development) whilst the latest inspection (six years since joining the trust) judged the academy as requires improvement across all areas.

“I am particularly concerned that leadership and management at the academy has not yet been judged good whilst being part of the trust.”

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Ms Wilson said the Ofsted inspection in May 2023 identified the following areas for improvement:• Inconsistent quality of education and weak teaching.• The support leaders provide for pupils in the early stages of learning toread is not targeted enough to meet pupils’ individual needs.• Staff do not have consistently high expectations of pupils’ attitudes tolearning and behaviour.• Too many pupils do not come to school regularly.

The Ofsted report said: “Pupils’ experiences at The Birley Academy are mixed. There are good relationships between staff and pupils. However, too many pupils do not enjoy learning.

Behaviour

“Some pupils use derogatory language. This sometimes leads to fighting. Where leaders identify poor behaviour, they address it. As a result, behaviour at social times is improving.”

Ms Wilson said that the trust had positively engaged with the DfE and has sought a school improvement partner. The trust has also appointed a director of secondary education.

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“Whilst I am hopeful that the actions that are being undertaken provide a solid foundation for further improvement at a faster pace, the long-standing history of under-performance means I am not yet fully assured that the trust’s support for The Birley Academy will bring about the necessary improvements at the pace required to deliver good quality of education and outcomes for pupils.”

The trust was told to put an improvement strategy and action plan in place by the end of February.

It had to address areas of weakness pointed out by Ofsted and the school improvement partner, and demonstrate that the trust can drive the plans forward.

Confident

A first update to the DfE is scheduled for March 29 and must continue at the end of each term until further notice.

A spokesperson for the school said: “Ofsted’s report almost a year ago confirmed that leaders have clear plans to raise standards and that they are deeply committed to the school.

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“Since then, we have been working extremely hard to implement our plans to improve the school.

“While school improvement is an ongoing process, we are confident that the progress made so far will be sustained.”