Trust in charge of 14 Northamptonshire schools needs to do more to help pupils achieve says watchdog

The David Ross Education Trust, founded by Carphone Warehouse entrepreneur David Ross - has been subject to a focussed Ofsted inspection.
The David Ross Education Trust, founded by Carphone Warehouse entrepreneur David Ross - has been subject to a focussed Ofsted inspection.

The trust in charge of Northampton's Malcolm Arnold Academy has been told it needs to improve pupil progress months after several of its leaders resigned.

Ofsted has now released the outcome of what it has called a “focused inspection” of 13 schools run by the David Ross Education Trust - which runs 14 schools in Northamptonshire.

Malcolm Arnold Academy - rated as 'requires improvement - is one of 14 schools in Northamptonshire run by the trust.

Malcolm Arnold Academy - rated as 'requires improvement - is one of 14 schools in Northamptonshire run by the trust.

Inspectors visited the schools in September, rating two "inadequate" and five "requires improvement". Six were rated "good".

Eastfield Academy in St Alban's Close, Kingsley, was among those rated as "requires improvement "- but The Arbours Primary Academy in St Gregory's Road and Newnham Primary School near Daventry, were among those re-assessed as "good".

The trust has been operating for 10 years and also runs Malcolm Arnold Academy, but Ofsted says that, after this time, too many pupils are underachieving by the end of key stages 2 and 4.

The Ofsted report states that in 2016, "pupils made less progress than the national average in reading and mathematics at key stage 2 and in mathematics at key stage 4."

David Ross.

David Ross.

And attendance levels also came under fire in the focused inspections.

"The persistent absence of pupils who are eligible for free schools meals is higher than that of their peers in almost all DRET academies," it states. "Although positive action has been taken very recently, the trust has not successfully addressed this long-standing issue."

The uncertainty of over the trust's governance also formed a large part of the report.

The trust's chair, Lord Blunkett, resigned in March, along with its chief executive Wendy Marshall and two other leaders.

Then, in May, the chain proposed to cut nearly £1m in funding from school budgets and up to 40 jobs from across its 32 primary and secondary schools after admitting it was facing financial challenges.

Trustees have not held directors and leaders to account with “sufficient rigour” in the past, the report said, while inspectors warned the chain did not have clear enough structures in place to enable quick intervention in struggling schools.

However, Ofsted acknowledged recent efforts to rectify the problems.

It praised “successful” improvement in many of the trust’s academies. Of the trust’s 34 schools, 17 have seen their overall effectiveness improve since they joined, while two have declined.

A spokeswoman for the David Ross Education Trust, said: “We note Ofsted’s recommendations, which are being systematically addressed, and that Ofsted acknowledges many of the positive actions taken and changes being made under the direction of the Trust’s new leadership team.”