Council angry at Academy Trust’s decision to close secondary school

Janet Downs's picture
You’ve probably never heard of Corby Glen. But you may have heard of the Luttrell Psalter, a sacred text decorated with pictures of everyday life in the medieval village of Irnham. Irnham is in the same parish as Corby Glen and pupils from the village’s Community Primary School recently did a project on the Psalter. Their work was exhibited in the village’s art gallery.

Corby Glen, 11 miles from Grantham in Lincolnshire, also has a secondary school, the Charles Read Academy with 269 pupils on roll. In 2012, when 53 pupils took GCSEs, only 38% attained the benchmark 5 GCSEs A*-C. But Lincolnshire retains selection. The 2012 cohort at Charles Read had 30% low attainers and only 13% high attainers. Nevertheless, the school’s Best 8 Value-Added score was 1003.9 - slightly more than nearby Bourne Grammar School (VA 1002.3).

Charles Read became an academy in 2011 as part of the West Grantham Academies Trust (WGAT). And the Trust wants to close the school. The Trust’s CEO, Trudy Brothwell, said WGAT had consulted with the Department for Education (DfE) to move all Charles Read pupils to another WGAT academy, West Grantham Academy St Hugh’s. This would “increase opportunities” for Charles Read pupils as the educational standards at the two schools were “very different”. Standards at St Hugh’s were “outstanding”, Brothwell said. But based on league table results (admittedly not the most reliable of indicators), only 39% of St Hugh’s pupils reached the benchmark in 2012. It’s true that St Hugh’s Best 8 VA was higher (1019) but it’s misleading to describe both schools’ educational standards as being “very different”.

Mrs Brothwell denied basing the decision to close Charles Read on its results. Instead she blamed changes in Government funding.

But the proposal is not popular. Parents, pupils and Unison are campaigning against it. One parent told the Grantham Journal:

I think it’s quite devastating if they close the school. It is providing something quite rare because other schools are much, much bigger and students lose their identity when in a big school.”

And the Council has expressed its disappointment. Lincolnshire County Council, which recommended in September 2011 that all its schools become academies, may now be regretting that policy. It has no say when an Academy Trust decides to make profound changes such as closing a school. Council leader, Councillor Martin Hill (Con) told the Stamford Mercury that there’d been no consultation with the Council: Grantham has “growth status”, he said, and the town expected a “considerable increase” in primary numbers from 2014 which would feed into secondary schools in 2020. “Closing the school makes little sense and reduces the ability to plan for the future.” The Council also complained that the closure of Charles Read will increase Lincolnshire’s already high school transport costs.

Last year the Local Government Association in a report co-authored with the DfE said the ability of local councils to ensure a sufficient supply of school places was being made difficult because local authorities had no control of academies. The Charles Read case shows how decisions made by Academy Trusts can have a detrimental effect on local authorities' ability to manage the provision of school places.

The academy conversion programme is supposed to give parents more “choice”. But parents in Corby Glen feel that choice is being taken away from them.

APPENDIX (added 12.16 pm).  Ofsted rated St Hugh's CofE Maths and Computing College (the pre-conversion name of West Grantham Academy St Hugh's) as Outstanding in March 2010.  Ofsted rated The Charles Read High School as Satisfactory in November 2009.  Ofsted said pupil achievement at Charles Read was "satisfactory because students make expected progress" although standards were "too low" [presumably"low" in relation to other schools if pupils were making expected progress].  Ofsted said Charles Read had a "deserved reputation as a caring community" and found it offered a wide education despite its small size.

CORRECTION: Paragraph 3 has been changed to correct clumsy grammar.  Sorry.

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