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Call for U-turn on struggling academies after Willenhall school's damning inspection

By David Cosgrove | Willenhall | News | Published: | Last Updated:

Council chiefs have called for the Government to rethink its academy programme after a school's damning inspection report.

Willenhall E-ACT Academy IN Furzebank Way, Willenhall

Willenhall E-ACT Academy's inadequate Ofsted was revealed by the Express & Star earlier this week.

The secondary school, which is part of an academy trust, was rated inadequate in all areas by the schools watchdog.

Teachers, governors and pupils were all heavily criticised in the incendiary report, which revealed Ofsted inspectors had food at them while they were visiting the school.

Councillors from across the political divide in Walsall have today weighed into the 'appalling' Ofsted findings – urging the Government to rethink its academy plan and allow failing schools to be run by the council.

Former cabinet member for education Chris Towe said: "The Government decided this (academies) was the way forward but they need to have a rethink.

"We've got absolutely no control over things – we can talk to schools but have no power.

"It's an absolutely appalling situation and cannot be allowed to continue.

"These are our children and we have no power over how they're being educated.

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"I despair and fell sorry for the children who are trying to achieve and are being held back by pupils who don't want to achieve.

"When a school isn't doing what it should be doing then the council should have the authority to take it back under our control.

"They are our children and it's our responsibility to look after them and give them the best possible start in life we can."

Councillor Towe took particular issue with an E-ACT spokesman's comment the Trust was 'disappointed' with Ofsted's findings.

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He said: "I think they should be ashamed of themselves saying they're disappointed – this should not have been allowed to happen."

Walsall Council leader Sean Coughlan said: "I have to say I'm really disappointed to hear the Ofsted report is that bad and it's a total shame.

"From my point of view I think it's endemic of the situation in education that we've had for the last few years.

"Schools are being taken out of local authorities' hands and we don't have any control.

"I've never been in favour of academies and don't believe they're the cure for all evils – in fact I think they're part of the real problem.

"[Willenhall E-ACT's Ofsted] is a sad indictment on the modern day education system.

"The Government needs to look at how they fund education and how they allow councils to play a leading role – which we really need to."

Among the damning findings in the report were the fact nearly one-third of students in Years 7 to 11 are persistently absent, poor behaviour leaves students feeling unsafe and 70 per cent of teachers left the school during 2015 and 2016.

Ofsted rated the school – which has 1,340 students – inadequate overall and in the five inspection categories – leadership; teaching; behaviour; outcomes for pupils and 16-19 studies.

A spokesman for the E-ACT Trust said: "Naturally we are disappointed by Ofsted’s decision.

"However, under the strong leadership of Ms Kirsty Jones as the recently appointed headteacher, and with the close support that we provide across all aspects of the academy, we are confident that Willenhall Academy will continue to make rapid progress so that we can offer the best possible education to our students.

"At E-ACT we are proud of the fact that almost two thirds of our academies are rated at least good by Ofsted, and we expect Willenhall to join this group by the time of their next Ofsted inspection."

David Cosgrove

By David Cosgrove
Deputy Chief Reporter - @davidcosgrove_

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