The head of a Cheshire academy, thrown into ‘confusion and concern’ after the loss of their controversial sponsor, has come out fighting in defence of his school.
Last week, The Chronicle reported on academy chain E-ACT losing its right to sponsor Winsford Academy – formerly the Winsford E-ACT Academy.
This week, principal Andrew Taylor-Edwards has spoken out to put the record straight about the Department of Education’s decision, the academy’s recent Ofsted report and his hopes for a new sponsor.
Mr Taylor-Edwards – who was appointed in 2011 – hit back at claims that the loss of sponsorship was related to the school’s performance.
He said he is not responding from a ‘defensive position, frantically trying to justify my academy’s existence in the face of the recent negative press directed at E-ACT as a multi-academy trust’.
He explained: “The concerns raised by the Department of Education (DfE) are related not to our academy but to E-ACT, as a multi-academy sponsor, and their ability to transform the standards in 34 of their academies across the country.
“You may be aware that 10 out of E-ACT’s academies are currently in a category of concern. We are not.”
Indeed, Mr Taylor-Edwards highlighted their recent Ofsted report – published the week after the sponsorship announcement – which referred to the ‘rapid improvements’ Winsford Academy has made 30 school weeks since the last one.
Teaching was found to have improved, leading to faster progress.
Attendance is increasing and has risen to the national average.
Disabled students and those with special educational needs have similar achievement to that of their peers.
Students were found to behave well around the academy and are respectful to adults and welcoming to visitors.
The principal and leaders at all levels were found to be committed to the academy’s improvement and have secured rapid improvement.
Mr Taylor-Edwards said the DfE’s ‘unprecedented’ decision had thrust the school into ‘inevitable confusion and concern’ but that the school has been an ‘island of calm’.
“Whilst other dramas played out in the background, inside the Academy, 1,050 students and 160 staff went about the business of learning,” he said. “The strict structure of the teaching day being almost impenetrable to outside influence.”
The principal is keen to stress to parents that charges for a new school uniform to accommodate for the change of the school’s name will not be tolerated.
He added that there are still changes to be made but that he is ‘looking forward’ to sharing that journey with the new sponsor.
“We know that, irrespective of whose umbrella we are under, the greatest force for change in any school is its leaders, teachers, parents and students,” he said.
“Having said that, we hope for a sponsor led by experts who will offer further inspiration and who have the capacity to effectively coordinate an academy trust so students feel the direct benefits.
“We hope they are local and that they will be committed to teaching and learning, staff development and partnership. We know these trusts exist.”