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.”