Five schools in conversion limbo for four years plus: one’s been stuck for eight

Janet Downs's picture

Hanson School, Bradford, has been waiting to become an academy since 2011.   Two trusts, SPTA and WCAT, abandoned the school.  Gorse Academies Trust, is supporting Hanson temporarily.   Gorse has provided ‘valuable support’ but ‘unresolved legal and financial issues’ have held up conversion, inspectors wrote in January 2018.

That was eighteen months ago and Hanson’s still stuck.  And Gorse  faces accusations that it’s off-rolled pupils from its mainstream academies into its alternative provision free school.  Gorse denies the allegation but two of its academies received Ofsted visits on 23 October. 

In 2014, The North School, Ashford, was ordered to convert.  Kent County Council (KCC) asked Swale Academies Trust to manage the school.  The school had been rebuilt under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI).   KCC said PFI could leave the council facing an ‘unacceptable and significant risk’ if PFI schools became academies.

In 2017, Swale was forced to defend buying BMW cars for senior leaders.  Accounts for year ending 31 August 2018 show two staff members were being paid between £190k and £200k.

In July, KCC cancelled Swale’s contract to manage North School at ‘very short notice’ (see here and here).

St Francis’ Catholic Primary, Maidstone, a Voluntary Aided school, was ordered to convert in 2014 following an inadequate judgement.  The proposed sponsor is Kent Catholic Schools Partnership.

In September 2014, KCC was accused of acting unlawfully in dismissing David Bray, St Francis’s head. 

St Francis was upgraded to good in January 2015.  This judgement was confirmed in a short inspection Sept 2018. 

The conversion of West Kingsdown C of E primary in Sevenoaks ordered in March 2014 has been  held up by ‘land issues’, Schools Week reports.  The school was judged inadequate but upgraded to requires improvement in June 2014.  After being judged to require improvement again in 2016, West Kingsdown was upgraded to good in November 2018.  Academy conversion is no longer necessary.

Shuttleworth College, Lancashire, faced an academy order in 2015 after an inadequate rating.  The Education Partnership Trust hoped Shuttleworth would  join EPT in September 2016.   But three years later, Shuttleworth, another PFI school, remains a foundation school.

The school has twice been judged to require improvement since then. 

Shuttleworth increased its pupil admission number for one year only to accommodate extra pupils following the closure of Hameldon Community College, a PFI school.  The local MP said Hameldon was forced to close after a free school was established nearby. 

Closing Hameldon left the council with insufficient places.  Now Lancashire’s decided to expand Shuttleworth and nearby Unity College to meet demand.

This situation highlights the disastrous PFI legacy and the madness of setting up free schools where they’re not needed.  A free school opened which threatened the viability of a nearby school.   The neighbouring school closes leaving  council taxpayers facing a £41m bill.  There are now insufficient places.  Answer: use public money to expand two existing schools.



EXTRA  Schools Week today:  how ‘failing’ academies are also ‘left in limbo’

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