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Sunday, 21 December 2014

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New Workington academy school set to be delayed

Proposals to close two failing secondary schools in Workington are set to get the green light – but the shutdown is likely to be pushed back until summer 2015.

Stainburn school photo

Senior county councillors meet on Thursday to decide whether Southfield and Stainburn schools should close.

A report for the council’s ruling cabinet recommends that moves to shut the schools are implemented but that the closure date is moved to August 31, 2015.

It would allow a new academy to open in September next year, not January as first planned.

Any approval from councillors would be subject to a funding agreement being signed by June 30, 2015 between the Education Secretary and the trust chosen to run the new school.

Calls for the delay have come from the body of local people drafted in to work with new school leaders to turn around the failing standards at Southfield and Stainburn.

Tracy Stainton, chair of the schools’ interim executive boards (IEB), says they “strongly believe” opening a new 1,200-pupil academy in January “is not in the best interests of the young people of Workington”.

Concerns include:

  • Any potential academy sponsor will not take on the costs of running two school sites.
  • The curriculum for both schools will come together in September 2015 so students’ learning is not disrupted. Some students are already in the middle of their exam courses; they are not the same in both schools.
  • The journey for the two schools is a difficult one – both are in special measures. Recruitment of both staff and students is an issue to be resolved.

Ms Stainton said: “If Cumbria County Council supported this proposal it would give a clear, realistic and achievement timeline for all stakeholders.”

The Department for Education (DfE) is backing the call. Gail Banks, from the DfE, said: “Subject to ministerial agreement, the DfE agree in principle that a later opening date of September 2015 would support a longer and more appropriate lead-in to prepare staff and the communities for the changes that will in turn provide stability and help to secure good outcomes for the young people of Workington.”

The delay will be costly.

Forecasts show the schools could rack up a total net deficit of £2.1m by August next year – £800,000 more than if they closed in December. The county council would have to foot the bill from existing schools grant funding.

Reviews of staffing, curriculum, and support services have been launched at Southfield and Stainburn to identify savings to help offset some of the deficit.

The county council could incur additional travel costs once a new single-site academy opens for pupils of the two existing schools – potentially up to £188,100 a year, a cost which will reduce year on year as fewer children receive subsidies.

It has also emerged that it will cost around £20m to build a new academy to replace the existing sites at Stainburn and Southfield, funded by the Government’s Priority Schools Building Programme.

Councillors are being warned this week that pupils from one school may have to relocate to the other while any new academy is built.

A decision on where a new academy would be constructed is made by the Education Funding Agency, which will choose the most cost-effective site.

The county council has chosen its preferred sponsor for any new academy in Workington – the Lakes Academy Trust which is run by Lakes College West Cumbria.

John Macilwraith, acting director of Cumbria’s Children’s Services, in his report to cabinet members, states: “The closure of both schools and the opening of a single new academy is considered to be the best way to improve the education available to the children in Workington.”

Decisions on whether a new academy can be created and who will run it are taken by the Education Secretary.

Have your say

For children already at these schools this action is going to cause so many problems. Surely going forward the only way is to bring this in slowly. All kids in the two schools now should carry on as they are, any new intake should be in line with both schools. My child will be going into yr 9 after summer and this is an important time for stability not uncertainty. I don't want my child's future to suffer due to this upheaval.

Posted by Nat on 21 July 2014 at 23:39

Why the stainburn badge and site remember 2 schools involved southfield are the other one if you are in doubt. Always been the underdog in the news and stars eyes

Posted by Concerned on 21 July 2014 at 19:31

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