Under-fire academy answers its critics

editorial image

Complaints about Ormiston Ilkeston Enterprise Academy has prompted the Advertiser to hold a summit with the school’s chiefs to get the answers demanded by parents.

The academy was created on King George Avenue in a merger completed last year with the former Bennerley School — a move that sparked controversy.

But in recent months, parents have raised several concerns with the ‘Tiser about the new school.

Earlier this year a group of teachers were suspended amid allegations of inappropriate photographs being posted online. The teachers have since been cleared.

Other claims have included allegations that videos featuring pupils fighting have appeared online.

So the Advertiser requested a sit down with the school’s principal, Dave Smith, and senior advisor of the Ormiston Academies Trust, Mike Gibbons, to set the record straight — and highlight some of the positives at the academy.

Reporter AMY HIRST spoke to the duo about recent concerns and looked towards the school’s future.

Starting with the ‘incident’ which resulted in teaching staff being suspended, Mr Smith explained: “The incident has now been dealt with and investigated and as far as we’re concerned there is nothing further to say on the matter.

“I understand parents were upset about the fact that they were not told about it and no details were released but it was subject to an official investigation carried out by a principal from another school with no links to us.

“Pupils quickly drew our attention to the incident in the first place and any conversations we needed to have with them were with the full support of their parents. People who needed to be involved in that process were.”

We asked whether measures were in place to stop a similar ‘incident’ from occurring?

Mr Smith said: “We believe so, yes. And if there was another incident of the same or similar nature it will be dealt with in the same way.”

Addressing concerns from parents and guardians about the direction of the school, Mr Gibbons said: “The first thing to say is that attendance figures are up. Pupils are obviously enjoying coming to school or that wouldn’t be the case.

“Two years ago they were 91 per cent, a year ago that had risen to 92.5 per cent and this year they are at 94 per cent, just below the national average. So we must be doing something right.

Mr Smith went on to add: “After our last OFSTED inspection, they could have easily put us into special measures but they chose not too because they could see the signs of improvement.

“These improvements take time and they won’t happen overnight.

“We are expecting to gain at least 50 per cent of A*-C grades after this year’s exams which would be a great achievement for us.

“We are particularly proud of what our students have achieved in terms of English and Maths, we put particular focus on those subjects and we expect to see that reflected in results.

“The most important thing to say here is that I am yet to have come across a student in this school who doesn’t want to achieve and do well, it’s our job to build on that and that is exactly what we are doing.

“People who do have concerns can come to me and raise them, I’m happy to chat with anyone who has any issues or worries.”

It has been claimed by some parents who contacted the ‘Tiser that teachers had spoken inappropriately to pupils and that video footage has appeared online of students fighting.

Mr Smith responded by saying: “If we don’t get told about these things then we don’t know about them.

“I’m upset that people have gone to the press to make these claims before coming to me, I have an open door policy and would encourage parents to tell me about such incidents.

“We can’t take action if we aren’t aware that these things have happened or are happening.

“One of the difficulties we have now is that a fight can happen in a classroom and two minutes later it’s on the internet for everyone to see. As easily as it’s there ,it’s gone again. If I know these things have gone on they will be dealt with.”

Mr Smith was then asked what kind of impact the merger has had and how he expects the final stages of the process to go.

He openly said: “I know the merger wasn’t popular when it was first talked about but I genuinely believe it is the right direction for the school to take.

“I know both schools held fond memories for a lot of local people but the students have taken to it really well.

“There’s been no trouble in terms of a divide between pupils. I think that might have existed in generations gone by but there’s been no evidence of it since the move.”

Mr Gibbons added: “I would like to thank the community for standing by us during difficult times.

Mr Smith concluded: “Overall we need parents to trust us. I understand that trust may have broken down. But this is a partnership, we need to work together for the future of the school.”