Francesca Fraser: It is past due that Ofsted should inspect ‘outstanding’ schools

16 Nov

Francesca Fraser is a researcher at Onward.

When inspectors visited the ‘Outstanding’ Ash Church of England Primary School in Somerset this September, it was the first time it had been inspected in 15 years.

Whilst recognising the efforts being made by the headteacher to improve the school, they reported “In some subjects, the curriculum is not well planned. Lessons are not well organised … Teachers’ expectations of what pupils can achieve are too low, including in the early years”.

Subsequently, the school was downgraded from ‘Outstanding’ to ‘Requires Improvement’.

Headteachers and unions are up in arms that other schools may suffer Ash Church of England Primary School’s fate. When Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, warned that as many as half of outstanding schools might be downgraded following the return to routine inspections, many in the education system accused her of adding insult to the injury of disruption and hardships of the last eighteen months.

But what is more important: that schools maintain their ‘Outstanding’ status, or those with room to improve are shown how?

Such misplaced anger says much about the priorities of some in education. No one would argue that the school system has not been through hell over the last two years. Schools have endured restrictions, disruption and closure, often at the behest of policymakers and always at the mercy of an unpredictable disease. Teachers and heads deserve our support and gratitude.

But schools exist to serve pupils and families, and it is them – not schools – that stand to benefit from scrutiny.

A report by the Education Policy Institute for the Department for Education on progress during the last academic year demonstrates this clearly. By the end of the 2021 summer term secondary pupils were still, on average, 1.2 months behind levels of learning they should have received. Meanwhile, the gap in learning loss between disadvantaged secondary pupils relative to their peers was estimated at an additional 1.6 months for reading.

The truth is that children cannot afford another year of pandemic-related dither. Schools and teaching unions should be desperate for any intervention that may support them in making the necessary changes to reduce this learning deficit. We should be using every tool at our disposal to improve the opportunities afforded to school children, including the inspection regime.

And crucially, this focus must not be limited to the schools that are already flagged as being underperforming – as the case of Ash Primary shows. By giving previously outstanding schools a free pass, we are putting pressure on those that are already having the hardest ride while allowing those that were deemed good enough over a decade ago to go unchecked, potentially at the expense of pupils’ progression.

It is not just the effect of the pandemic which necessitates better accountability for outstanding schools, especially given evidence that some are not always delivering on their responsibility to the wider community. Consider pupil intake: outstanding schools consistently take on the lowest levels of pupils on free school meals, and this is true even if you compare schools in similarly income deprived areas.

A supportive Ofsted judgement should not override a school’s duty to those that could benefit from their help most.

This is clearly not the case for all high performing schools. Partly thanks to the reforms of the last decade, the UK is lucky to have many schools that are truly exceptional. In these cases schools should not be afraid of inspection either, as scrutiny should only serve to reaffirm their excellence. Where there are weaknesses, it is important that parents are made aware of them and schools are able to address them, the alternative is unlikely to be at anyone’s benefit.

But we shouldn’t stop here. If we are to truly have the ‘honest conversation’ that the Chief Inspector hopes to have around school standards, we cannot ignore the academy chains that are increasingly crucial in how we organise our school system and drive up standards. This is in part due to the likes of Outwood Grange, Reach, or Star Academy, who have successfully expanded their trusts into new areas in need of great schools and have demonstrated the possibilities of the Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) model.

Various funds have been introduced to capitalise on these success stories, most recently the Trust Capacity Fund, with some positive results. However the perennial problem with this approach is there is little to identify which MATs should be encouraged to expand and at what pace. What works for one trust will not always work for another.

This system risks failing to deliver for the schools and pupils that these expansion funds are targeted towards, creating disruption over solution. Meanwhile, it regularly fails to incentivise the very academies that we all wish to expand. Funding can be short-term, and too limited given the size of the challenge presented to them. Taking a school with successive poor judgements and a demoralised school body and turning it into something successful takes time and money.

These two birds can be solved with one stone. As Jonathan Gullis MP’s Ten Minute Rule Bill currently before Parliament proposes, we should give Ofsted the powers to inspect MATs, not just the individual schools within their control. These inspections should go further than considering Progress 8 and attainment scores and recognise the wider good that MATs can do, in providing professional development, creating great leaders, and inspiring pupils through curriculum and enrichment.

And when trusts are genuinely doing all these things, and are in a place where they can expand their influence and pedagogy, we should give them generous funding over multiple years to use their transformative approach elsewhere.This should create a system of accountability, akin to inspecting outstanding schools, where great deeds are recognised and built upon while encouraging others to take up this mantle.

Teachers wouldn’t let even the best students mark their own homework, especially not for fifteen years in a row. Let’s learn a lesson from them.

Nick Gibb: My advice to my successors at Education. Don’t scrap GCSEs or ease up on standards.

20 Sep

Nick Gibb is MP for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton, and was the Minister of State for School Standards until last week’s Government reshuffle.

Just before the 2010 general election, I visited a school in north London to see children being taught to read. One nine year-old girl was unable to read a single word unaided. Her reading book had words in it such as “Tyrannosaurus” and yet she struggled to read the word “even”. It was clear that she was expected to learn by sight and repetition rather than through decoding words by sounding out the letters. It wasn’t clear to me that she even knew the sounds of the alphabet and yet she was being expected to read this children’s book to the teacher.

It broke my heart to see a child just a couple of years from secondary school so far away from developing even the basic skills of reading – let alone a love of the written word that would sustain her throughout her adult life.

The memory of that young girl stayed fresh in my mind every day during my nearly ten years as an Education minister. It was experiences like this that led us, when we came into office in 2010, to place a greater emphasis on phonics teaching, strengthening its primacy in the National Curriculum.

In 2012 we introduced the Phonics Check for six year-olds to make sure they were on track to becoming fluent readers. This enabled schools to identify and support those children who were falling behind, because the evidence is clear that reading is within the grasp of almost every child.

When the test was introduced, just 58 per cent of six year-olds reached the expected standard. As a result of schools improving the teaching of reading through the adoption of systematic phonics, 82 per cent were at or above the expected standard by 2019 .

In the latest PIRLS international study of the reading ability of 9-year-olds, England had its highest ever score, rising from joint tenth in 2011 to joint eighth place out of 50 countries in 2016. The rise was attributed to improved reading by boys and lower-performing children, and the report acknowledged the close association between children’s Phonics Check results and their performance in PIRLS.

I use the example of phonics because being able to read is of fundamental importance for every child’s education and life chances. But phonics also exemplifies the battles we have waged since 2010 against the ideologically-driven bad practice that has bedevilled the education system since the 1950s.

For the first time, a Conservative Government systematically challenged the so-called “progressive” approach – an ideology which downgraded the importance of knowledge and academic rigour and which argued that children learn better through projects and through self-discovery (‘finding out’ as the Plowden Report termed it in 1960) than by teacher-led teaching. This philosophy decries exams and dismisses the importance of committing knowledge to memory. It is a philosophy which was failing – and in some schools, despite the huge improvements we’ve made, is still failing – generations of children.

So, in 2010, we started the process of revising the curriculum – restoring the centrality of knowledge. With the help of teachers, we re-wrote the Primary Curriculum, with maths based on the highly successful Singapore curriculum, and with English focused on developing fluent and accomplished readers and which emphasised the love and habit of reading.

For secondary schools, we improved the quality of GCSEs and A levels, putting them on a par with qualifications in countries with the highest performing education systems – aware as we were that future generations will be competing with the world’s best educated populations.

And I urge my successors to resist the siren voices of those who call for GCSEs to be abolished. Nothing would widen the attainment gap more than such a dismal and unambitious policy. For a large minority of people, GCSEs are the last academic qualification they will take. Remove them, and that group lose any valid certification of a broad education. GCSEs also serve to define a demanding curriculum and they help hold schools to account. Remove them and weaker schools will grow weaker still.

As we undertook these reforms, I was struck by how often the most articulate and passionate proponents of a knowledge-based curriculum were not always natural Conservatives. In fact, many saw themselves as on the left of politics.

But we were united in our dismay at the number of schools that were simply not providing the quality of education or standards of behaviour that parents expected and which our country needed. These schools were unpopular but, for a want of places elsewhere, were filled by children who, as a consequence, were destined not to live up to their promise – another cause of heartbreak.

With the Government’s focus on driving up standards and despite raising the bar for what qualifies as a good school, over the last 10 years the number of schools judged by Ofsted to be outstanding rose from 68 per cent in 2010 to 86 per cent in 2019.

But there is clearly more to do. I worry about the 14 per cent of schools that are still judged as inadequate or needing to improve. Too often, these failing schools are in areas of deprivation, serving communities that more than anywhere else deserve and need the highest quality schools not the worst schools.

My plea to the new team at the Education Department is simple: don’t listen to those who excuse failing standards and who argue that schools in deprived areas cannot succeed. President George W Bush was right to dismiss such arguments as the “soft bigotry of low expectations”. Our ambition must not be limited by such arguments.

Thanks to the huge success of the academies and free schools programme – which unshackled schools from the cloying control of local authority bureaucracies – there are now schools serving the most disadvantaged parts of the country that are delivering a standard of education that rival or exceed the best in the country – state or independent.

Schools like Michaela in Brent with 41 per cent of pupils qualifying for free school meals, Dixons Trinity Academy in Bradford (30 per cent), or Eden Boys School in Birmingham (40 per cent) – but all achieving GCSE progress scores that put them at the very top of the national performance table.

These are schools that take a strong approach to behaviour, that emphasise the importance of a knowledge-rich academic curriculum (at least to the age of 16), and which have very high expectations for their pupils regardless of their background. If these schools can achieve the standards they do in the most disadvantaged parts of the country, then it is clear that poverty never needs to be a reason for poor educational outcomes. What we need is a Michaela or a Dixons Trinity or an Eden Boys in every city and town serving those communities that have been let down for generations.

What these schools also have in common is a high proportion of their pupils being entered for the EBacc combination of core academic GCSEs – English, maths, at least two sciences, a humanity and a foreign language. These are the subjects that more affluent families will expect their children to study because they give young people the greatest opportunities and options for their future. If it’s right for these children, it’s right for all children regardless of their background. That’s why it is so important that the EBacc remains as a key metric by which we hold schools to account.

As we emerge from the Covid pandemic and 18 months of disrupted education, the £3 billion of catch-up funding is crucial. But building and opening new free schools will be just as important in helping ensure that children in the most deprived areas catch-up.

Ultimately, the life chances of children are enhanced by exceptional teaching – and this is especially true for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. It’s why in 2010 I was so keen that our first White Paper should be called The Importance of Teaching.

Over the last 10 years in Government, and the five years prior to that in Opposition, I have visited hundreds of schools throughout England. Wherever I went, despite varying standards, all the teachers I met were conscientious, energetic and committed to their pupils. The huge expansion of the Teach First programme since 2010 has brought new graduates into the profession; many have stayed in teaching and are becoming headteachers.

Teaching is an important and fulfilling vocation. It has the power to change and shape lives. We owe all our teachers a huge debt of gratitude. But they need better support, especially in the first years of their career, so we have set about ensuring their initial training is based firmly on evidence and have set higher expectations of teacher training institutions.

I am delighted that my friend, Nadhim Zahawi, has been appointed to deliver the next phase of our reforms. Much has been achieved since 2010, but there is still much more to do. If I were to give the newly reshuffled team at the DfE one piece of advice it would be this: remember that reform must be a continuous process, the speed can change but momentum must not stop.

If we let up our concentration on standards, on what evidence tells us works; if we stop pushing forward the knowledge-based curriculum or abandon changes to teacher training, the tide will turn. It’s hard work, but the progressive ideology has not gone away. It would be a tragedy for future generations if we gave in and settled for an easier life.

Rachel Wolf: Tests for the delivery of levelling up, and levers with which to deliver it

10 May

Rachel Wolf is a partner in Public First. She had co-charge of the 2019 Conservative Manifesto. She was an education and innovation adviser at Number 10 during David Cameron’s premiership and was founding director of the New Schools Network.

The Conservatives have won more stunning victories. Why?

First, the approach that drove the 2019 victory continues to deliver.  Second, vaccines and furlough have rewarded sitting governments: they have demonstrated competence, agility, and a willingness to spend.

The next great test won’t come for a while. Boris Johnson is Merrie England: he is the perfect leader for our summer of freedom. The economy will temporarily boom. Furlough won’t be withdrawn until September. Provided it stops raining, everyone should feel good.

But the Government will be acutely conscious that the next six months is also the last window for policies that can deliver by 2024. They will also know that, by Christmas, any lingering effects of what my partner and ConservativeHome columnist James calls ‘furlough morphine’ will have worn off. Some economic scarring is likely.

In other words, ‘levelling up’ now needs to get real. This is clearly the plan in the next few months, starting with the Queen’s Speech tomorrow, and then leading to the Levelling Up paper.

Truth be told, levelling up is a poor slogan. It has never done very well in our focus groups – people find it confusing and then, when it’s explained to them, mildly irritating. They don’t think they’re ‘levelled down’, they think they’re ignored. Equally, they find the idea that in four years they’re suddenly going to become London and the South East bizarre – it’s not what they want, and they don’t think it’s credible.

But the danger of ‘levelling up’ is not that it confuses voters, but that it confuses policy. Too many seem to equate it with transforming regional productivity, affecting every town in provincial England and Wales, within a Parliament. Obviously if that’s what voters wanted, they would be disappointed.

Of course regional productivity and innovation are vital, and longer term work should begin. But there are also shorter-term gains. Here are some important ones, some obvious levers, and ways to measure progress.

The high street test.

People care deeply about where they live. They ‘measure’ decline by their town or city centre. Here’s what you hear time and time again: shops boarded up; graffiti on the cenotaph; drug addicts; no monthly market; no decent playground.

In other words, it’s depressing to be in, feels mildly unsafe, and there’s nothing to do.

  • Levers: Business rates; soft infrastructure (local museums, libraries, playgrounds); events including markets and protecting green spaces; incentives for lower margin, often civic enterprises from soft play to youth clubs to sports. Decent bus services. Core public services in the town centre.

It is crucial that ‘economic investments’ (many of dubious effectiveness) do not trump these. Yes, it becomes easier to sustain this kind of infrastructure when people are wealthier. But it is worth remembering that many of these things existed when people were much, much poorer.

  • Tests: vacancy rates. Footfall. Number of events. And, of course, what people tell you about their town.

The safety test

Under-reporting of crime is a big problem, and there is reason to believe it disproportionately affects the Red Wall. Burglary, shoplifting and vandalism are particular problems.

Fraud, too, is a national problem with unequal consequences. Pensioners in Red Wall seats who may own their own homes but have very modest savings and no private income are particularly exposed to losing their life savings. Meanwhile, specific estates suffer from low police presence, and deprived coastal communities and small towns are the targets of County Lines.

In other words, crime is a particular issue in particular ways in these places.

  • Levers: the extra police will help. We also need to change the way in which Home Office funding is allocated and put more emphasis on localised funds like the Safer Streets Funds (which pays for things people want like CCTV). We need a massive, revived focus on fraud – it is getting insufficient airtime and attention.
  • Tests: the obvious source is surveyed crime, but the government also needs better ways to measure crime than annual face to face interviews,

The Opportunity Test 1: Skills and Jobs. 

Training and apprenticeships are a huge priority for working class people. They want local training opportunities – ideally leading to local jobs. We know there’s huge untapped demand for technical level skills in the labour market, and that many adults want to retrain. It remains one of the great challenges of our system.

  • Levers: the Queen’s Speech will create a proper lifetime learning entitlement. Now it needs more funding and less bureaucracy (which is already blighting other skills entitlements and apprenticeships).

On jobs, big changes will be long-term. As well as incentives for private sector investment, the public sector is an opportunity. People want trained people to stay or return home. A start – and one of the most popular things universities can support – would be incentivising public sector graduates (like teachers, nurses, and doctors) to stay in areas where recruitment is a challenge.

  • Tests: number of adults in retraining. Reduction in skills shortages in ‘technical’ roles. I’d include reduced reliance on foreign skilled labour in specific areas (such as parts of construction, who are presumably going to see investment, and therefore job opportunities through net zero and transport).

The Opportunity Test 2: Schools

Schools perform less well in many Conservative target areas. In the past, I would have said this was a moral imperative, but not an electoral one – school quality wasn’t a big vote winner. But I think there’s now greater desire from parents (and we’ll be publishing a report with the Centre for Policy Studies on this in the near future). They are more aware of how their children are doing, how far behind some of them are, and how differently schools responded to the pandemic.

  • Levers: incentives for teachers to go to underperforming areas. Renewed focus on academies and free schools. Ofsted inspections with a focus on standards. Continuing the drive on behaviour. There should also be new focus on the most gifted through programmes in schools and more academically selective sixth forms.
  • Test: Ofsted ratings (including number of failing schools); percentage getting five good GCSEs in core subjects (called the EBACC).

Finally, an overall measure: retention of people and inward migration – in other words, do people want to stay and move to the towns of England? It is implausible that this will transform in a few years, but you might start to see a little movement towards the end of the Parliament (and post-Covid home working will accelerate this effect if places are nice to live in).

You will no doubt have issue with many (if not all) of these levers and measures. There are some omissions (most obviously health). But my point is that it is possible to generate and measure progress within a few years. The job won’t be done, but people will see the path. That shouldn’t diminish the importance of the longer-term, even harder job of thinking through regional growth and productivity. But if you don’t get these areas right, Johnson and the Conservatives won’t be given permission to carry on.

Adam James: The Government must breathe new life into the Conservative education agenda

28 Aug

Adam James is Head of Faculty at a secondary comprehensive school in East London. He has an MA in educational Leadership from UCL and trained through Teach First.

Towards the end of the 20th century, nearly 90 per cent of pupils in inner London failed to leave school with five good O-levels. It was deemed that local councils were doing a poor job of running these schools as they believed the situation was so dire that intervention was futile.

The New Labour government encountered issues when it started to remove schools from local council control, as most schools that needed independence were to be found in Labour council strongholds, such as East London.

When Michael Gove became education secretary in 2010, he knew that he had to vastly expand the academies programme to improve educational standards. The Academies Act 2010 began this process, and allowed headteachers to mostly run schools how they wish, much like independent schools, albeit funded by the taxpayer.

PISA has rated this system highly internationally because of its level of autonomy and accountability. School autonomy has hugely widened choice for parents; it has allowed those who are most passionate about leading schools to set-up their own and run them in the way they see fit; it has allowed for multi-academy trusts (MATs) to help improve standards across several schools for tens of thousands of students; and it has shown how fundamentally important accountability is to a school’s success, when done properly.

It has led to the opening schools such as Katharine Birbalsingh’s famous Michaela school, Mossbourne Academy and Bedford Free School, to name a few of the most successful academies. In 2019, 54 per cent of all of Michaela school’s GCSE grades were Grade 7 or above (the old A/A* grades), compared to the national average of 22 per cent. This is remarkable for a school that is fully comprehensive and in one of the most challenging and deprived areas of inner London.

MATs, such as Harris and Ark, have replicated similar successes across hundreds of schools. The Harris Federation has transformed many troubled schools. As of 2019, 19 of its 23 secondary schools were rated ‘Outstanding’ and three rated as ‘Good’.

What is their key to success? Visionary and inspiring leadership and cast iron accountability structures. After analysing Ofsted reports of schools in England, McKinsey found that ‘the performance of a school almost never exceeds the quality of its leadership and management’. It found that ‘for every 100 schools that do not have good leadership and management, only one will have good standards of achievement’.

Academisation has also bred innovation outside of traditional schools. A prime example of this is Reach Academy in Feltham which has set up a ‘Hub’ that provides ‘cradle-to-career’ educational services. In addition to their two all-through schools, they provide support for children aged 0-2 years, and their parents through adult classes and employability workshops. Reach Academy have said that they aim to broaden this programme to support the wider community, not just students who feed into their school. This shows how providing autonomy to the education sector can help enable headteachers to become entrepreneurs and support entire communities.

Where next?

So, ten years on from the Academies Act being passed, what is next for the academies programme? Despite many success stories, there are flaws within the system that have allowed poor leaders to drive schools to failure. There are many ways in which the academies programme can progress to help fulfil its ambition to ensure ‘educational excellence everywhere’. Full academisation, taking into account some lessons from the last decade, will ensure this.

Although there is government support for large MATs, more help must be given to ensure that poor performing standalone schools are supported and, if necessary, join a successful MAT. There needs to be more effort invested into finding these mismanaged and poor performing schools before their issues spiral out of control. This could be done through Ofsted, or through government support of successful MATs to inspect local schools.

Leadership from headteachers and groups of schools was key to London’s success. A good leader can make the seemingly impossible possible and impact thousands of lives. The Government should consider re-launching the National Leaders of Education (NLE) and National Leaders of Governance (NLG) programmes. They recognised outstanding individuals in these areas and allowed this expertise to be shared with schools in need of support.

Overall, ministers must make education a top policy priority again. Gove, the pioneer of academisation, ensured that education policy was a key pillar of the Conservative manifesto. The Government worked with many schools, MATs and other private organisations to drive the education sector forwards. Recently, this funding and focus has diminished somewhat and highly successful organisations, such as Ambition School Leadership, are less effective as a result. Other programmes that could have been implemented nationally, such as the London Challenge, were not pursued.

Academisation should not be a controversial topic. It has improved the life chances of hundreds of thousands of pupils, including the most disadvantaged, by driving up standards and allowing leaders to lead. The government needs to make this a policy priority once more.

John Bald: Academisation does not guarantee higher school standards

28 Jul

John Bald is a former Ofsted inspector and has written two books on the history of writing and spelling. He is Vice President of the Conservative Education Society.

West London Free School celebrated the end of the school year with a concert and an announcement by headteacher Clare Wagner that no lessons had been missed during lockdown. Pupils in Years 10 and 12, the pre-examination years, had taken school exams, and six pupils, from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds, had received offers from Oxford or Cambridge. The contrast with the National Education Union’s panoply of excuses not to do this, with the Guardian’s article on Manchester Grammar School, implying that state schools couldn’t possibly, and with the “Woke” lobby’s insistence that minority ethnic groups are essentially victims, could not be greater. Like Michaela, West London has travelled a long and sometimes difficult road, but has shown that the ethos of hard work and kindness works, and is the solution to the problems that have beset education since Labour’s botched introduction of comprehensives in the 60s. Like Michaela, West London is not (apart from twelve music places) selective, and, like Michaela, it has shown the difference between a genuine comprehensive school and a secondary modern.

There is a further contrast with Stantonbury International School, a sprawling, oversized comprehensive in Milton Keynes, which boasts of “Proud traditions, wide horizons and high achievement,” and has just received an Ofsted report, that is as bad as those that made headlines in the days of the late Sir Chris Woodhead. Numbers are high at 1,600, pupils are not safe, behaviour is poor, learning is haphazard, and examination results strongly negative from pupils starting points, with only three per cent achieving the English Baccalaureate (West London has 69 per cent). Like most comprehensive schools, it hides the full scale of the disaster behind the screen imposed by Lib Dems during the coalition, which provides an opaque summary rather than the full picture. Gavin Williamson should restore the requirement that schools publish their full results by grade and subject.

Stantonbury, an Academy with the Griffin Schools Trust since 2016, illustrates the difference between mass academisation and the best Free Schools, which are driven by the dynamism and vision of some of the best minds in education, as evidenced by Michaela’s second book, The Power of Culture, edited by Katharine Birbalsingh but written by members of staff. Each chapter is a detailed and intensely personal account of the author’s contribution, as head of department or year group, deputy, special needs co-ordinator, new teacher or school secretary. The result is a complete picture of its contribution to society as well as to its pupils’ education, including, but not limited to, some of the best examination results in history. Katharine Birbalsingh is not the fictional Miss Trunchbull of Crunchem Hall, but a smiling, happy person who uses authority much as the late Cardinal Hume did, in the service of the pupils.

New teachers are told that pupils will only give their best to a teacher if they love them, which comes from understanding that teachers care, and give their best to the pupils. This is not achieved by a raised voice, but by clarity and careful explanation, so that the pupils buy into the school’s ethos and share its purpose. At 380 pages, this is a demanding read, but worth it. It is the best book on school education that I’ve ever read, and better than I ever expected to find.

Back at Stantonbury, the Griffin Schools Trust has taken action to replace the senior team and the governors. But the school has been under its control since 2016, and was identified by Ofsted as requiring improvement two years later. It is fair to ask why it took virtual meltdown to lead to the necessary action, and whether this and some other multi-academy trusts are any better than the local authorities they replaced. Some of the most celebrated are demonstrably worse, and it was not good enough for Jeremy Hunt to tell me at the leadership hustings last year that I should focus on what had gone right rather than what had gone wrong.

An Academies pioneer once told me in private that “We haven’t got enough good people,” and the meltdown at Stantonbury proves the point. Barry Smith, who turned Great Yarmouth Charter Academy from sink to a thriving community in under a year, is now doing similar work in Hackney, and would do so wherever he went. Other distinguished headteachers, like Dr David Moody, formerly of Harris Battersea and now CEO of Academy Enterprise Trust are making a similar impact. But have we got enough of them? And are we making the best use of those we have? Until these questions are answered, the success of Academies as a national system of education will remain in the balance.