In October 2012 Macadamia School was placed in Special Measures under the terms of the revised Ofsted School Inspection Framework of September 2012. This reformulated Grade 3 introduced a new category entitled “requiring improvement” which raised the requirement for what is considered to be acceptable performance. From an overall grade of ‘Satisfactory’ in the previous inspection in January, 2011 the school was now judged to be ‘Inadequate’ in three of the four categories. Subsequently it was placed in Special Measures which thus made it prone to the opportunity for the Secretary of State to require it to become an Academy. This option was invoked and this research reports upon the effects of the impact of that judgement and the early stages of the forced academisation process on school leaders.
‘Macadamia’ is a pseudonym used because the school has been subjected to the external application of processes in order to effect and accelerate central government policy and this appears to resonate with the notion of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. It is a large mixed gender primary community school in the North of England with a population of 536 pupils aged 3 to 11 years. Following the inspection the Local Authority suspended the governing body and appointed an Interim Executive Board (IEB). No changes were made to the senior leadership team at that time, but the school was partnered with a larger ‘successful’ local primary school.
The research reported here is drawn from semi-structured interviews with the headteacher, some governors, including the chair, and the attached local authority inspector which produce evidence that demonstrates the negative impact caused by the twin effects of the school being placed in special measures and the enforced academisation process. The principal researcher was a member of the governing body of the school and was present during the initial series of extraordinary governing body meetings convened to consider the implications of the situation arising from the Ofsted report. She was thus in an excellent position to see the impact of the twin processes at first hand, an outcome assessed to be a multiplying rather than added effect
The headteacher subsequently left the school and the final act of the deposed governing body was to approve the preferred sponsor who already has responsibility for many other schools within the local region. By October 2013 the school had full academy status with an interim headteacher.