As reported in this week’s local press, Larchwood Primary School will become an academy from May 1st this year. The recently expanded Brentwood Academies Trust will become it’s sponsor.
The Trust was formerly known as St Martins Academy Trust which was formed when the Hutton secondary school converted from local authority control in 2011.
The move follows the school being rated as “Inadequate” last year by Ofsted and, as a result, coming under the scrutiny of the Department for Education (DfE).
As visitors to our site will be aware, this situation has often led to “forced academisation” with DfE approved sponsors replacing existing governing boards and taking over the running of the school. This is not the case here.
The Ofsted inspection was poorly timed for the school as the effect of a new regime established by then recently installed new headteacher, Mr Ryan Duff, had not had time to be reflected in available performance data.
We understand that the school’s governors were convinced that given further time and support Mr Duff would be able to return the school’s rating to at least the “good” rating that it had previously enjoyed.
Clearly the decision was taken during the summer to explore options to continue progress without the direct intervention of the DfE. As an “outstanding” school St Martin’s sponsorship was a viable option.
St Martin’s head Mike O’Sullivan is quoted in the press underlining progress already made and that the new arrangement is intended to “accelerate the rate at which they improve the quality of what they have to offer”.
Judging by Larchwood’s Ofsted monitoring report from last month this is a sound judgement:
It has been confirmed to Educating Brentwood that the school will continue to be known as Larchwood Primary and that the board of governors will be retained.
Some may be dismayed that it has not been seen as possible to drive improvement through the local authority but this pre-supposes that Essex County Council (ECC) have the appetite to do so. Indications seem to be that the LA here is an enthusiastic champion of the government line and, in my judgement, this change should be seen in that context.
That the preferred available option of Larchwood’s governors and headteacher appears to have been adopted, and that it is a local one, seems a welcome conclusion to me.
ECC are quoted as being “delighted” with the development and they have good reason to be for another reason.
Followers of education news locally will be aware that ECC were pressing for a new primary to be provided via the free school route to meet what they presented as a future capacity issue.
Whilst we demonstrated that this may have been exagerated, some places do appear to be needed and, pleasingly, that requirement can now be met without the need for further capital expenditure. Larchwood Primary’s new status allows the school to expand and it has been confirmed that it will become a two form entry school from September.
The threat of a sixth school in Sawyers Hall Lane seems to now be well and truly dead.
So it appears to be a very positive start to the educational year in Brentwood, we are only now missing further education options for our young people. Perhaps the remainder of the former Sawyers Hall College site can now be reassessed for that purpose?