Concern over Carlton school’s expansion during ‘inadequate’ Ofsted rating

Nottinghamshire County Council headquarters.
By Anna Whittaker, Local Democracy Reporter

Councillors raised concerns about a Nottinghamshire school’s Ofsted rating amid a major expansion project.

Carlton le Willows Academy in Gedling was rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted after an inspection in November 2022.

Since 2012, it had been consistently rated ‘good’ with some of the best exam results in the country.

But the academy, which has over 1,700 pupils, was rated inadequate for leadership and management in a report published in January 2023.

Inspectors rated it ‘requires improvement’ for the quality of education, behaviour and attitudes, personal development and for the sixth-form provision.

After the Ofsted report, in February 2023,  the school was give an ‘inadequate’ rating overall and issued with a Termination Warning Notice by the Department for Education – meaning the Government can terminate the trust’s funding unless improvements are made.

The Government is in the process of finding a new academy to take over the trust.

A project to expand the school costing around £14m is due to be completed in September 2023 which will create an extra 600 pupil places.

Nottinghamshire County Council discussed the issue at a Children and Families Select Committee on March 20.

Labour councillor Michelle Welsh raised concerns that many parents will shy away from choosing the academy due to its recent Ofsted rating.

But Cllr Tracey Taylor (Con), cabinet member for children and families, said there was a need to be “measured” about the situation, adding that Ofsted is not “everything”.

Cllr Welsh said: “We’re seeing a huge inspection of Carlton Le Willows school which has recently been rated inadequate.
“I would say for many people in the area it has come as a big shock.
“How does that work with regards to the expansion? If you’re growing a school with more pupils while it’s inadequate, how are we going to work with them?”
She added that the issue “should not be dismissed” by the council.
She said: “I think we are going to have a further problem in Gedling.

“As long as Carlton Le Willows remains inadequate, there will be a problem when it comes to applications. People will not put down Carlton Le Willows and then we will have a problem.

“Families would move into that area so their kids could get into Carlton Le Willows.

“You’re expanding places at what is now an inadequate school. I am not saying there are teachers who are not working all out.”

Cllr Taylor added that “it is an academy, and therefore it is out of the direct influence of this authority to lead on improvements”.

Cllr Jim Creamer (Lab), who represents Carlton, said many residents in his area attend the school.

He said: “We can show as a county council that we are extremely concerned about what happened.

“The parents come to us as councillors and they are concerned. To brush it off is out of order. We should be showing our concern.

“In Carlton, we’ve got two secondary schools. Only 50 per cent of our schools are good.

“To me, that is a crisis and it is certainly a crisis for residents.”

Peter McConnochie, Service Director for Education, Learning and Inclusion, said: “It plays a lot of significance in terms of the preferences parents have.

“Often that is linked to Ofsted ratings or perceptions of schools. We know they change over time.

“It won’t change the expansion as this is well under way and due to be completed this year.

“It’s a school that had a challenging Ofsted that will lead to some difficulties for the school.

“Currently there is a notice out about the brokerage of that academy and that will transfer to a new multi-academy trust who will be responsible for rapid school improvement.

“I would expect that school would not remain inadequate for long.

“There will be a short term impact in terms of perception of the school, but long term I would expect to see that eased.”

Cllr Tracey Taylor (Con), cabinet member for children and families, said: “My plea would be that we try to exercise calm and moderation and reassure families.

“The notion of families suddenly turning their back on Carlton Le Willows because of one Ofsted judgement is something I think we do need to be measured about.”

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