When Greenwich Free School opened in 2012, it was assessed at posing a high risk to five local secondary schools, all undersubscribed. The local authority closed one of them, Blackheath Bluecoat, but this still left 700 unfilled places. This didn’t stop the LA giving permission for more free schools: Royal Greenwich UTC and International Academy of Greenwich.
One of the schools rated as being at high risk from Greenwich Free School was Corelli College. Corelli blamed competition from free schools for its later financial difficulties. It had 383 spare places when it closed for a ‘fresh start’ in 2018.
Corelli was transferred to Leigh Academies Trust (LAT) and rebranded The Halley Academy. This transfer cost the LA £1.5m. The Halley now has 444 spare places.
Despite Corelli citing competition from new schools for its falling roll in 2017, another free school was proposed for Greenwich at the time: Leigh Academy Blackheath (LAB) on the site vacated by Blackheath Bluecoat. The impact assessment for LAB, released two days ago well over a year since the academy opened, said that Corelli was only at ‘moderate’ risk from the fourth free school.
How can it be that a school at high risk from one free school is assessed at only moderate risk from a fourth one? I know there’s a five-year gap between the dates of the impact assessments and circumstances change. But Corelli blamed competition from free schools in 2017 when LAB’s impact assessment was drawn up.
There are also questions about the wisdom of allowing one academy trust to run so many local schools. As well as taking over Corelli and opening Leigh Academy Blackheath, LAT also took over another school, Crown Woods, named as being at high risk from Greenwich Free School. LAT now has three academies in Greenwich.
Crown Woods School became a LAT academy in 2014 and was renamed Stationers’ Crown Woods Academy. The school’s capacity was reduced from 1963 to 1800. Despite this reduction, Crown Woods still has 189 surplus places. It was judged good in 2017, the same rating as the predecessor school. It’s not named on the impact assessment for Leigh Academy Blackheath as they are more than two miles apart.
FOOTNOTE: Greenwich Free School, was transferred to ARK in September 2018 and renamed ARK Greenwich Free School. It had been upgraded from requires improvement to good in 2016. The government’s database for schools gives the impression that GFS has been run by ARK since it opened in 2012. I have written about the difficulties involved in tracing a school’s history before, see here.