Repair bill expected to be £5 million
The head of The King’s Church of England School in Wolverhampton, James Ludlow, is ‘extremely angry’ that a budget shortfall and an expected £5m repair bill has led him a cut staff, reduce music lessons and cancel the school play, the BBC reports. The head blames inadequate school funding. He didn't enter teaching to 'cut back and cut back'.
The King’s is a Voluntary Aided school which means the school, not the local authority, must pay for repairs from its delegated funding.
The school was refurbished under the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) scheme, a policy begun under the Labour government. It was completed in 2013 when Tettenhall Wood School moved to ‘stunning’ new facilities on The King’s site. The schools had been unaffected by the decision of the then education secretary Michael Gove in 2010 to cancel BSF because work had already started.
Regeneration of Wolverhampton schools in partnership with Carillion cost £270m
The King’s CofE School wasn’t the only Wolverhampton school improved under BSF. The inspire Local Education Partnership, a collaboration between the council and Carillion, the outsourcing giant which has since collapsed, was responsible for delivering the BSF regeneration programme costing £270m.
Carillion’s collapse raises questions about future remedial work on public buildings
It would normally be expected that a builder of a recently-refurbished or rebuilt school would return to fix faults. But Carillion is no more.
The company’s collapse raises questions about who will pick up the tab for remedial work on public buildings built by Carillion. The King’s is not alone in having problems. Carillion’s work on some schools in Tameside, for example, ‘was found to be unsatisfactory or problematic’, a local paper reported.
The King’s could become a ‘zombie’ academy
The BBC reported that The King’s could become a ‘zombie academy’ – one which ‘has been given academy status’ but is unable to find a sponsor. The Department for Education’s list of sponsored academies in the pipeline (downloadable here ) says the school was given academy approval on 17 May 2017 but no sponsor is named.
The King’s faces a double whammy – the looming repair bill and an inadequate Ofsted rating dated March 2017. No monitoring has yet taken place but the school’s website says The King’s is ‘the only outstanding Church of England secondary school in Wolverhampton’. But this judgement comes not from Ofsted but from a National Society Statutory Inspection of Anglican and Methodist Schools Report dated 2015 (this is made clear in the small print).
One option open to The King’s is given in the Diocese of Lichfield’s policy on academies. It says when a CofE school is ‘placed in an Ofsted category’ which triggers ‘an academy order’, the Diocese will consider, among other things, that the Church of England Central Education Trust (CECET) becomes the sponsor and ‘the school converts into a diocesan MAT.’
CECET needs to act quickly to avoid The King’s being stuck in limbo. But the looming shadow is that £5m repair bill.
CORRECTION 5 May 2018. The original article said The King's was given academy approval on 17 May 2018. This was incorrect. Academy approval was given on 17 May 2017, over a year ago. The article has been corrected.