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Copperfield Academy turnaround stuns education expert Peter Read

An education expert has said he is "flabbergasted" at a recent inspection of a failing school.

Copperfield Academy in Gravesend was issued with a "Minded to Terminate Letter" in March after being placed into special measures and subsequently rated inadequate by Ofsted inspectors.

But after a follow-up inspection last month, Ofsted inspector Frances Nation has written to headteacher Simon Wood - who took over in September last year - to confirm "effective action" was being taken, and that both the trust's statement of action and improvement plan were fit for purpose.

Copperfield Academy, Dover Road East, Gravesend.Picture: Andy Payton FM4050672 (12336218)
Copperfield Academy, Dover Road East, Gravesend.Picture: Andy Payton FM4050672 (12336218)

However, independent education advisor Peter Read, a former headteacher at Gravesend Grammar School, said he was "utterly flabbergasted" over the latest findings.

He said key points from the March Ofsted inspection were still affecting performance - pointing out "nine classes from Reception to Year 6 are covered by unqualified teachers" that the quality of teaching was judged to be "highly variable", which was "further exacerbated by the high level of staff changes or staff who are absent".

He added: "The staff list records a total of 18 class teachers from Reception to Year Six, so exactly half are unqualified.

"Both deputy headteachers are ‘Acting’, clearly Trust trouble shooters, and so very likely to move on; the ‘super head’ has been flown in to sort the school out again in the short time, but what will happen when the tide goes out again?

Peter Read (8045278)
Peter Read (8045278)

"It is notoriously difficult to recruit qualified staff to a special measures school, as demonstrated by the failure to do so in September 2018.

"After six years of failure by the Trust it has been forced to take short term action to improve matters. I remain unimpressed by the gloss that has produced this report."

Speaking yesterday, executive headteacher Simon Wood remained bullish in the face of former criticism and said the school should be judged on the latest findings and its future performance.

"We're not being terminated is the bottom line," he said. "The school is making good progress and is taking effective action to address every point."

He said a raft of changes were already having an impact on performance, including "better teaching and learning, recruitment of highly qualified effective staff, higher expectations, clear systems and procedures, and engagement with the community."

News from our universities, local primary and secondary schools including Ofsted inspections and league tables can be found here.

Read more: All the latest news from Gravesend

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