Downham Market school to be released from academy trust

Downham Market Academy.
Downham Market Academy.

A school in Downham will be looking for a new academy trust after its current one has said it will be transferring its sponsorship.

In a newsletter to parents last week, it was revealed that Downham Market Academy (DMA) will no longer be a part of the College of West Anglia (CWA) Academy Trust once a new sponsor is found.

It comes after the regional schools commissioner (RSC) raised concerns about the speed of improvement and achievement at the academy, and an official warning letter was issued last year.

The chief executive of the CWA Academy Trust, Duncan Ramsey, said: “As a result of that [letter], the trust put in place a rapid improvement plan to address the issues raised. Feedback on the improvement plan from the RSC has been positive and the school has improved well this year under the leadership of Phil Hearne.”

But Dr Ramsey said, after discussions with the RSC, it had been agreed that now was a good time for DMA to “continue its academy improvement journey to good and outstanding with a new academy trust”.

The trust has said it will continue to support and implement the improvement plan until a new trust is in place.

Dr Ramsey added: “At this stage, we do not yet know who the new sponsor will be or when the change will take place but I have written to parents to reassure them there will be no short-term impact on the management of DMA.”

In the newsletter, Dr Ramsey said he would keep parents up-to-date on developments once he had more information.

The trust was sent the pre-termination warning letter in November of last year, in which the RSC said the standards of pupils’ performance were “unacceptably low”.

CWA Academy Trust has faced a challenging few months, after college principal David Pomfret stepped down as chief executive of the trust, and the college was given a requires improvement-rating after an Ofsted inspection this month.

Mr Pomfret, who had combined his trust position with college work for three years, said the merged role could no longer be sustained when he stepped down in January.

Earlier in March, the college was told that it needed to improve standards as the government inspector said that the number of students failing to complete courses was too high.

Back in December, after the letter was released to the public, DMA principal Jon Ford stepped down from his position, having led the school for five years.

During that period, it was the most improved school in East Anglia in 2012 and transferred to academy status in 2013.

In his capacity as chief executive at that time, Mr Pomfret said: “Following a recent visit by the RSC, Jon informed me of the decision to step down from his post and take a much-needed break.

“It is to his credit and a testament to his commitment to the academy that Jon decided it was time for someone else to take up the challenge of leading the academy on its improvement journey.”