Inspiration Trust sponsored academy in Great Yarmouth rebranded as free school

Janet Downs's picture

Great Yarmouth Charter Academy ‘closed’ after just one year

Great Yarmouth Charter Academy opened on 1 August 2017 when Inspiration Trust took over Great Yarmouth VA High School (GYVA).

On 31 August 2018, according to Get Information About Schools (GIAS), Charter Academy (681 pupils, capacity 1000) closed following amalgamation. 

GIAS gives no clue about which school GY Charter merged with.   The linked establishment is Charter Academy, a sponsored academy linked to GYVA.

But there’s a second GY Charter listed at the same Salisbury Road address and with the same website.   Capacity has increased (1500) while pupil numbers have shrunk (118).

The other GY Charter is listed as a free school.

How come?

Turn the clock back to September 2016.  Inspiration Trust opened Trafalgar College, a secondary free school in Great Yarmouth. 

In September 2017, Inspiration took over GYVA and within weeks was proposing to merge with Trafalgar College.  This was controversial.  But it went ahead anyway.   Trafalgar College site remains open temporarily for Year 8 and 9 Trafalgar pupils pending redevelopment of the Salisbury Road site.   

It’s clear, then, that Trafalgar College closed not Charter Academy.  What can be the reason for an existing sponsored academy to be rebranded as a free school?

Could it be because it’s easier to get capital funding for free schools?  Money earmarked for Trafalgar College’s permanent buildings could be redirected to refurbishing Charter Academy.  And Inspiration has already announced major upgrading of Charter Academy’s site

Charter Academy claims it was formerly known as Trafalgar College

Charter Academy’s website says it’s a ‘recently opened free school…formerly known as Trafalgar College’.   But GIAS does not link GY Charter with Trafalgar College.  All trace of Trafalgar College has disappeared from GIAS.  And GY Charter's head doesn't seem to know - he still says GY Charter opened its doors in 2017.

The ‘recently opened free school’ traces its roots back to 16th Century

Elsewhere on GY Charter’s website, it claims the school can trace its roots back to the 16th Century.  It may be on the same site as predecessor schools, but it isn’t the same school.  How can it be when it opened as ‘new provision’ in September 2017 and closed a year later? 

But if GY Charter stands by its claim that it began in 1551, then it can’t also claim to be recently opened.  

Questions around the controversial rebranding

The merger of GY Charter and Trafalgar raises several questions:  

  • Possible conflict of interest between Lord Agnew’s role as schools minister and as an Inspiration director until one day before GY Charter ‘closed’;
  • The role of the former Regional Schools Commissioner, Tim Coulson, now Chair of GY Charter’s governing body;  
  • The source of the money allocated to GY Charter refurbishment
  • Whether Trafalgar should have been allowed to open in the first place.

Will this rebranding start a trend?

Will other multi-academy trusts with academies and free schools follow the same convoluted path – merging one of its academies with an established free school, planning to move the merged school to the academy site and then claim it’s a free school?

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Tim's picture
Mon, 29/10/2018 - 11:54

This is all about Inspiration Trust dishonestly retaining Trafalgar Academy’s 11-18 funding agreement. There is no need for additional sixth form places in the area — in fact there has just been a review of 16-19 provision that concluded the opposite and resulted in the newly opened and highly successful Lowestoft Sixth Form College being forcibly taken over by failing East Coast College (Ofsted grade 3 in all respects).

Great Yarmouth Charter Academy (the “sick bucket school” of recent headlines) is GY High School in everything but name — premises, staff, student body were all inherited from GYHS. The DfE are willing to sanction the fiction of Trafalgar College’s continued existence because it keeps Trafalgar College off the ever-expanding list of failed free schools.

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