A SCHOOL branded “inadequate” before it switched to a new academy trust has gone without any follow-up inspection from Ofsted for more than four years, an Echo investigation has revealed.

Cecil Jones Academy, in Southend, was found to be inadequate and placed in special measures in December 2017, before being transferred from Legra Academy Trust to the Loxford Schools Trust in April 2019.

When schools are “re-brokered” into new trusts, they are regarded as “fresh start” schools which mean any former Ofsted category becomes null and void.

However, senior councillors have voiced concern over the lack of Ofsted involvement since the switch, which means a sizeable cohort of children will have been through the school with no judgment about its effectiveness.

The Echo’s investigation has prompted criticism of Ofsted, which carried out four inspections of Cecil Jones during Legra Academy Trust’s tenure in a four-year period between 2015 and 2019.

In addition, both Southchurch High School in Southend and Gable Hall School in Corringham both had follow-up Ofsted visits within months of them being rated inadequate, suggesting a lack of consistency in inspections.

Laurie Burton, Southend Labour councillor responsible for children, learning and inclusion, said: “When a school receives a poor Ofsted score, it shouldn’t be left for four years without being re-inspected.

“Where there have been improvements, it’s only right that they should be recognised, and where there are still issues, that should be recognised too.

“Parents and prospective parents have a right to know how a school is performing, and in the case of Cecil Jones, I hope Ofsted don’t take too long to give parents the assurance they need.”

Tony Cox, leader of Southend Council’s Conservative Group, added: “It does seem quite remarkable that it’s been left that amount of time by Ofsted. I would have expected something to have happened but I know they have been busy and have recently done a Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Ofsted on the council.

“We are waiting for the results of that but I am rather surprised. I would have thought they’d have received one in four years. It does seem rather bizarre.”

James Duddridge, Conservative MP for Rochford and Southend East, said: “By providing Cecil Jones Academy with a fresh start under the Loxford School Trust, since the school was rated inadequate in 2017, there has now been the opportunity for sustainable improvements to be made.

“However, it is not ideal that the school has not received a routine Ofsted inspection given the challenges faced by the school previously. Nationally, there is still a significant backlog of inspections created by the pandemic.”

New schools 'inspected in fourth of fifth year'

OFSTED has moved to address the lack of inspection of previously “inadequate” school for four years.

The education watchdog says it is operating within current rules in its dealing with the Cecil Jones Academy.

A spokesman said: “When Cecil Jones transferred to the new trust in 2019 it legally became a new school and no longer carries any inspection judgment - inadequate or otherwise.

"New schools that opened before September 2020 are likely to be inspected in their fourth or fifth year of operation. So Cecil Jones Academy’s first inspection is not late and, as a new school, it was not subject to any monitoring inspections.  Decisions around academisation, re-brokering to a new academy, what constitutes a new school and legacy judgements, are made by the DfE.”

A DfE spokesman said: “The Loxford Trust has a strong record of transforming ‘inadequate’ schools to ‘good’ schools. 

“When a school transfers to a trust after intervention, it is treated like a new school and is not normally inspected within the first three years. 

“Due to the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Ofsted’s normal three-year window for inspections may be extended by an additional 18 months.”