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'Serious concerns' over Ramsgate's Marlowe Academy after Ofsted inspection

By Paul Francis

A Kent academy is facing renewed criticism from school inspectors who say they have serious concerns about a dramatic decline in classroom standards.

Ofsted says its inspection of The Marlowe Academy in Ramsgate in November has flagged up “serious concerns about the effectiveness of the actions being taken to address the need to improve the achievement of students.”

It says leaders, trustees and the academy sponsor have not done enough to address shortcomings identified in the last inspection.

The Marlowe Academy in Ramsgate
The Marlowe Academy in Ramsgate

It is a fresh setback for the school, which has had a chequered history since becoming an academy in 2005.

The report also highlights a worrying decline in the number of pupils joining the school, saying that there are just 32 pupils in Year 7 - when there is room for a planned intake of 180.

One education expert says the falling rolls raise questions about how the school can survive.

Ofsted says the school has faced disruption to its leadership and highlights a high turnover of teaching staff and the number of unqualified teaching staff.

On standards, Ofsted says GCSE results in 2014 have “declined dramatically” associated with disruption caused by “the sudden departure of the previous principal.” It adds that the “culture of learning is fragile.”

A five-page letter to the academy states: “There are a number of inexperienced and some unqualified teachers in several departments.”

On the plus side, the report says the executive principal and head teacher “have a clear grasp of the challenges the academy faces” and trustees show “great determination to assist the academy to improve”.

However, the report is critical of the support provided by Kent County Council, saying it “has provided no support recently”.

A statement issued on behalf of Roger De Haan, who chairs the board of trustees, said:

“It is the case the Marlowe Academy faces challenges, and as Ofsted’s letter states, governors are in discussion with the DfE about ways to address the issues that have been highlighted. It is not appropriate or helpful at this stage to speculate about what measures may be taken.”

Ofsted says the school must take steps to attract more students, saying the fall in numbers is “generating very significant financial problems” but a likely upturn in numbers in 2018 means it is “viable in the medium and long term.”

Kent education expert Peter Read said the report raised a serious question about the Marlowe’s future.

“It has a massive problem with numbers. I just cannot see how it is viable with an intake of 32 unless the government was to support it financially - which it is not allowed to do.”

The school - previously the Ramsgate School - was the first in Kent to become an academy in 2005 under the previous Labour government’s programme, aimed at transforming the fortunes of the country’s poorest performing schools. It was built at a cost of £30m.

It was failed by Ofsted and placed in special measures in 2012. In 2013, improvements in standards were enough for the school to come out of special measures.

Its former head Cassie Ellins stepped down in November 2013 after 18 months.

She was replaced by a temporary troubleshooter Carl Wakefield. The academy then joined forces in a partnership with the Folkestone Academy, appointing Sean Heslop as executive principal and Emma Newman as head teacher.

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