Northwich academies operator on Government's 'restricted' list

7:00am Thursday 27th March 2014

THE sponsor chain in charge of the University of Chester Academies of Northwich and Weaverham has been restricted from taking on any further schools.

Responding to a Parliamentary question in the House of Commons on March 18, Children’s Minister Edward Timpson revealed UCAT was on a list of 14 restricted operators.

The list also contains E-ACT – which recently withdrew their support from the Winsford Academy.

Mr Timpson said: “This Government is tough on under-performance wherever it occurs—be it in council-run schools or in academy chains.

“When we do have concerns about the performance of academy sponsors, we act quickly by stopping them from taking on new projects, so that they focus on their existing schools and ensure that pupils receive a good education.

“Only when sponsors have demonstrated this are they then able to take on new academies.”

Cheshire West and Chester Labour group Leader, Clr Justin Madders, described the revelation as ‘worrying news for local families attending schools under the control of the UCAT chain’.

He added: “It is clear that at this time the Department for Education do not consider UCAT to be fit for future expansion. So does the Department for Education consider them fit to run their existing schools?

“UCAT needs to engage with Cheshire West and Chester Council to provide real reassurance. “Currently, they are not accountable to local communities and this gives me considerable cause for concern.”

Labour’s education spokesman, Clr David Armstrong, added: “Every child in Cheshire West deserves a first rate education.

“The Labour Group is very concerned about the future for the academies in this borough and for the children attending them. We will work hard with our communities to ensure the best education for our children.”

A spokesman for UCAT said: “Academic performance is of paramount importance to UCAT, which is committed to supporting students in achieving their full learning potential, whatever their starting points.

“This is why UCAT deliberately welcomed schools into its family which had been experiencing major educational, social and organisational challenges.

“All five secondary UCAT academies in the north west can demonstrate improvements in the proportion of students achieving five A*s -C grades, including English and Maths, at GCSE or equivalent level.

“At some schools, this number has risen significantly since they were first under UCAT’s auspices. “Although this journey has been relatively slow in some cases, it is on-going and heading in the right direction, with the upward trend predicted to continue this summer.

“In our secondary academies where progress has not been at the pace required by both UCAT and by the Government, UCAT has implemented a co-ordinated, robust, longer-term and sustainable strategy of challenge and support.”

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