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Campaigners fear academisation of 'Inadequate' Newbury Park school will plough ahead despite re-inspection by Ofsted

PUBLISHED: 15:00 18 January 2019 | UPDATED: 15:11 18 January 2019

A crowd gathers in protest of the forced academisation of William Torbitt Primary School outside Redbridge Town Hall, in High Road, ahead of a full council meeting on January 17, 2018.

A crowd gathers in protest of the forced academisation of William Torbitt Primary School outside Redbridge Town Hall, in High Road, ahead of a full council meeting on January 17, 2018.

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An “Inadequate” Newbury Park school has been re-inspected by Ofsted – but campaigners fear its forced academisation will plough ahead despite an expected improved rating.

Protestors also gathered outside William Torbitt Primary School, in Eastern Avenue on December 19. Photo: Turabi AyProtestors also gathered outside William Torbitt Primary School, in Eastern Avenue on December 19. Photo: Turabi Ay

Dozens of protesters gathered outside Redbridge Town Hall, in High Road, last night (Thursday, January 17) to protest at an academisation order issued to William Torbitt Primary School, Eastern Avenue, in June last year.

The order was imposed by the Department for Education (DfE) after the school received a poor Ofsted rating, which highlighted that “safeguarding was not effective” among other concerns.

But protesters argue that school has turned itself around in the space of six months with the council’s help and had been calling for a re-inspection to prove this.

“This is academisation by stealth,” said Cllr Elaine Norman, cabinet member for education and young people, said during the meeting.

“There is no evidence that academies improve standards.”

Councillors across party lines voted unanimously in favour of a motion to throw their full weight behind the campaign – composed of parents, staff and unionists – to fight the order.

Cllr Norman added that it is “ironic” how William Torbitt is being taken from the council’s control considering it had to intervene to help the ”troubled” St Aidan’s Catholic Primary Academy, in Benton Road, after it joined the Good Shepherd Trust.

An Ofsted inspector carried out a “monitoring visit” at William Torbitt on Wednesday, January 9, “which usually only lasts one day,” she added. “But the inspector recognised that so much progress had been made she converted it to a full ‘section five inspection.’”

This type of inspection is required to be carried out once every five years and considers safeguarding, behaviour and education quality.

“The fact that Ofsted has started removing it from special measures shows what progress the school has made,” Cllr Norman added.

Ben Morris, assistant secretary of Redbridge NEU, told the Recorder he understands the report is likely to be published in about eight weeks - meaning March 6 at soonest.

“And the intention is for a new academy trust to take over the school on April 1,” he added.

“There clearly needs to be a delay on the decision to academise until the Ofsted report comes out.”

Turabi Ay, who is leading the campaign, said: “In six months, we have worked really hard to address all the issues – we need that report to come out really quickly.”

An Ofsted spokeswoman said she could not confirm the date the report would be published.

She added the regulator typically aims to publish reports within 19 working days but this can be considerably longer depending on the complexity of the case.

Responding to campaigners last month, a DfE spokesman said: “When we see issues of underperformance we will not hesitate to take swift action.

“Whilst we are always keen to hear the views of parents and staff, our priority is, and always should be, the wellbeing, safeguarding and education of pupils.”

He added that a public consultation about the plan to convert William Torbitt Primary School to an academy will be formally run once an academy sponsor has been confirmed.

The Department of Education has been contacted for further comment.

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