The John Madejski Academy joins the White Horse Federation

Laura Ellener, principal of the John Madejski Academy

Whitley’s John Madejski Academy (JMA) joined the White Horse Federation (WHF), a multi-academy trust, in January 2018.

The JMA say that joining the WHF is part of the school’s ambition to be classified as outstanding by Ofsted, the UK government department that inspects and regulates services that care for children and young people.

The school says:

This will strengthen JMA’s commitment to driving academic excellence through a collaborative approach.

The collaboration … will also offer new opportunities for JMA and the students and will support the transformation of the school.

The WHF currently supports 20 primary, secondary and special schools in Oxfordshire, Swindon, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire; the JMA will be the first school in Berkshire to join.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for all of the students families and staff at JMA, and will further accelerate our progress to becoming outstanding,” said JMA principal Laura Ellener. “The WHF’s ambitions and values closely align with our own and so this collaboration was an obvious choice. We are looking forward to becoming part of the WHF family, continuing to create an exceptional educational community and achieving all the possibilities and opportunities that this will bring.”

“We, at the White Horse Federation, are delighted that JMA are joining our family of schools,” said Dr Nick Capstick, chief executive officer of the WHF. “[We] look forward to supporting their continued journey to becoming an outstanding school while also benefitting from the many talents and gifts the school will undoubtedly bring to our federation.”

Multi-academy trusts

In their publication Multi-academy trusts: good practice guidance and expectations for growth, the UK government’s department for education explains that multi-academy trusts (MATs) are intended to improve formal collaboration between schools, improve accountability and standards and increase financial efficiency and sustainability:

When weak schools join MATs, it is not just a matter of drawing on the expert support to help them improve, but rather the trust’s leaders are responsible and accountable for whether they do, in fact, improve.

One of the reasons given by school leaders already working within a MAT for joining was that it:

… made it easier for teachers to support each other across the group of schools by sharing, drawing on and learning from good practice, taking on increased responsibility for specialist subjects and acting as a coach and critical friend.


Ofsted rated the JMA as inadequate after an inspection in November 2015; the school was put into special measures. The current principal, Laura Ellener, was appointed in September 2016 and the school was taken out of special measures following a further Ofsted inspection in September 2017.

In this latest report, Ofsted re-classified the JMA as requires improvement. Ofsted made a point of saying that the JMA had improved since the previous inspection, adding that the school’s self-evaluation was “disarmingly honest” and that school leaders were improving the school with minimal financial resources:

The John Madejski Academy is recovering from a period of instability and weak leadership. Since September 2016, when the principal joined the school, it has been through a rapid process of transformation.

Pupils told inspectors about the school’s efforts to keep them safe and unanimously agreed that they feel safe in school. They also said that this was not the case a year ago.

Ofsted also described some of the longer term problems affecting the school.

The school’s work to promote pupils’ personal development and welfare requires improvement. This is because the community as a whole lacks self-belief and too many pupils suffer from low self-esteem, which holds learning back.

Attendance is too low, both historically and, already, this academic year. Levels of persistent absence are stubbornly high.

The reality is that some pupils are at least three years behind their chronological age in terms of reading. This is a significant outcome of the legacy of poor teaching in this and other feeder schools.

But, in case the underlying message of improvement in the JMA was missed, Ofsted also said:

Pupil outcomes are no longer inadequate because the hard measures now in place are showing signs of extensive recovery. As important are the improvements to other outcomes such as pupils’ better readiness for learning, greater sense of well-being, increased self-confidence and, for a substantial number, high level performance outputs in acting, musicianship and dancing.

  1. The John Madejski Academy
  2. The White Horse Federation
  3. John Madejski Academy Ofsted inspection reports
  4. Department of Education comparisons and performance tables for the John Madejski Academy
  5. Multi-academy trusts