Preston academy slammed by inspector

Damning report: Preston's Fulwood Academy
Damning report: Preston's Fulwood Academy
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Preston’s multi-million pound flagship academy has been given a caning by government inspectors.

Fulwood Academy has been plunged into special measures by Ofsted, who criticised almost every aspect of teaching, learning and management across the school.

The 11-18 school has been deemed inadequate following a two-day inspection by a team of four, which saw them sitting in on 35 different lessons.

In a scathing 11-page report, the inspectors said standards have fallen since the last inspection two years ago when it was given a satisfactory rating with room for improvement. The latest team criticised the quality of teaching at the school, which opened it’s new £25m building last year, and said teachers and senior managers have not done enough to drive up standards.

The proportion of pupils achieving the benchmark five or more A* to C GCSEs has been well below average since the last inspection.

Achievements in the sixth form, however, are improving. The Black Bull Lane academy, formed in 2009, following the merger of Fulwood and Tulketh high schools. It 
became Lancashire’s first, and only, privately-sponsored school.

‘Inadequate’ is the word education bosses have used to describe almost every aspect of life at Fulwood Academy.

Carphone Warehouse Boss Sir Charles Dunstone’s flagship school, which is sponsored through his Dunstone

Foundation, has come in for fierce criticism after Ofsted inspectors placed it into special measures.

According to Ofsted, students don’t make enough progress, with most groups underachieving in the classroom.Students lack confidence but feel safe in school.

Senior leaders were criticised for not taking enough notice of the poor progress made by students, while the inspectors claimed that governors were being given inaccurate information about standards in the classroom.

The school was, however, praised for making pupils feel safe and an improvement in discipline and attendance were acknowledged by Ofsted.

The academy, one of only 26 out of Lancashire’s 640-plus schools, does not come under local authority control.

It was set up in 2009 following the amalgamation of Fulwood High School and Arts College and Tulketh Community Sports College in Ingol.

College principal Richard Smyth took over the reins in 2010 after being headmaster of St Peter’s School in York, a leading independent school.

He has overseen the transformation of the school and played a key role in designing the new £25m building on the site of the old Fulwood High.

He introduced a number of changes to the way the school operated, notably a house system which operates on similar vein to the private sector.

However the school roll has fallen, from a one-time high of 1,200 pupils to the current 774, including 102 in the sixth form.

As an academy, the school is funded directly via the Department for Education and former News of The World editor Rebekah Brooks. was on the initial governing body.

On the school website Sir Charles Dunstone says: “My sole aim is to create the best possible academy, in order to give its students the greatest chance of reaching their full potential whilst at the academy, and after they leave.”

He adds: “It is my intention that Fulwood Academy will build on the existing strengths of the predecessor school to create a beacon of educational excellence.”

In a joint statement on the Ofsted report Sir Charles and Richard Smyth said: “As a school we place the greatest emphasis on discipline, attendance and personal development. Ofsted have indicated to us that we must now place greater emphasis on our academic progress and we are confident that the school is now ready to take on this challenge.”

Critics hit out over ‘flawed’ system

Preston MP Mark Hendrick said he was appalled by the report and that he was “totally bewildered” by the lack of progress at the school.

He said he had reservations about the way the academy was run, adding: “It is not accountable to the local authority but Mr Smyth and his management carry on as it is some sort of independent school, therefore not accountable to the local community. The school is state-funded.”

Simon Jones, national executive member of the National Union of Teachers, said: “This is no great surprise. The academy idea of putting schools into the hands of the private sector is flawed.”

Coun Matthew Tomlinson, Lancashire’s cabinet member for children and schools, added: “What is important now is that everyone works together as quickly as possible.”