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Waveney Valley Academies Trust, now Kingfisher Schools Trust, receives Termination Warning Notice for Stowmarket High School

An academy trust boss has acknowledged there is ‘important work to do’ at a Suffolk high school following a warning that it could have its funding agreement cancelled.

The Termination Warning Notice from the Department for Education (DfE) was issued to the members and trustees of the Waveney Valley Academies Trust in respect of Stowmarket High School, which is graded ‘requires improvement’ by Ofsted.

The notice, which was issued in December last year, by Jonathan Duff, regional director for the East of England, says he must be confident that the trust can deliver ‘rapid and sustained improvements at the academy’, but currently he is not satisfied this is the case.

Stowmarket High School. Picture: Mecha Morton
Stowmarket High School. Picture: Mecha Morton

If the trust fails to meet any of the ‘specified actions’ by the specified dates, he will consider whether to terminate the academy’s funding agreement in order to transfer the academy to an alternative trust.

Kingfisher Schools Trust is the new name for Waveney Valley Academies Trust from January 2024. The trust said this marks the many changes made in the trust, including Stowmarket High, since CEO Craig Morrison took up post in July 2023.

In a statement about the termination warning notice, Mr Morrison said: “Whilst we are disappointed to receive this, it’s important to clarify that this notice is linked to the outcome of the last Ofsted inspection, in January last year.

Craig Morrison, chief executive of Kingfisher Schools Trust. Picture: Supplied by Kingfisher Schools Trust
Craig Morrison, chief executive of Kingfisher Schools Trust. Picture: Supplied by Kingfisher Schools Trust

“Since then there has been a huge amount of change both within the school and the academy trust and many improvements.

“We do acknowledge that there is important work to do. Our team are committed to making Stowmarket High an excellent school for the local community and are working very hard to achieve this.

“We are working closely with the DfE at all stages and I am pleased that they recognise some of the significant changes we have made since the inspection a year ago, in this letter.

“We are confident that the school will continue to improve. We appointed a school improvement board at the start of the year who are helping us to ensure our plans and actions make a positive impact.

“It’s important to clarify, as I have to parents, that this letter does not put any school funding at risk.”

Lucie Hernandez is the interim headteacher of Stowmarket High School and joined from Barnhill School in Middlesex.

Stowmarket High School’s interim head Lucie Hernandez. Picture: Mecha Morton
Stowmarket High School’s interim head Lucie Hernandez. Picture: Mecha Morton

Ms Hernandez and the team at Stowmarket are supported by a school improvement board chaired by Susan Byles, formerly executive principal at Mildenhall College Academy and subsequently a regional director for a national multi-academy trust and education consultant.

The letter by Mr Duff says he welcomes the progress made by the trust so far in the autumn term, but remains concerned that the necessary improvements will not be achieved at pace or to the level required.

It said the following specified actions must be taken to the stated timescales or the Secretary of State may issue a notice terminating the academy’s funding agreement for Stowmarket High School:

-The trust, with support from the agreed school improvement partner, must provide an updated School Improvement Plan with clear milestones for improvement on or before February 28;

-The School Improvement Plan should address in particular:

♦ How the curriculum will be embedded at the school and how implementation will be monitored;

♦ How trust leaders will identify where teaching is less effective and how the training and support will enhance subject knowledge to ensure that pupils including those with SEND (special educational needs and/or disbilities) are fully supported to achieve well;

♦ How the academy monitors absence and persistent absence and what actions are in place to improve attendance with the capacity needed at trust level to support this;

♦ How the academy will ensure there are clear and robust policies and processes in place to consistently raise standards of behaviour, leading to reduced instances of disruption and poor behaviour.

The letter says the trust must implement the agreed School Improvement Plan and provide termly updates on the agreed actions and milestones within the plan.

Mr Duff added: “I appreciate the trust's willingness to work with the department to secure the best outcomes for children at the academy.”