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Ofsted puts senior schools in same town into special measures

Two of Workington’s three secondary schools are to be closed down and replaced by an academy after damning Ofsted reports.

Stainburn school photo
Stainburn school

Stainburn School and Science College and Southfield Technology College are being put into special measures after failing inspections.

Inspectors were due to publish their reports today but Cumbria County Council sent letters to parents of pupils at both schools yesterday confirming the news, stating that performance at the two schools was “inadequate” and they were being placed into special measures.

Cumbria County Council will use new powers to start formal consultations on plans to close the schools while launching a search to find a sponsor to open a new academy to replace them.

Government policy is to tackle under performance or turn around weak schools by opening academies.

The existing schools would close in December and a new academy open next January under the council’s plans.

The academy would operate over the two school sites until a new purpose-built campus, most likely on the Stainburn site, has been built. It is predicted it would be ready to open in late 2016.

Education bosses refused to speculate on the futures of Southfield headteacher Lynda Dalkin and Stainburn headteacher Chris McGrath but said they would remain in post for the time being.

Councillor Anne Burns, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “The council is disappointed that, despite the best efforts of both schools and partners, performance has been judged inadequate by Ofsted.

“Today’s judgements enable the county council to assume new powers to ensure young people at both schools receive the best possible education. While we understand the impact our decisions will have, we strongly believe they mark the start of a process which will transform secondary education in Workington for the better.

“The proposal to close both schools and open a new academy with new leadership, a new ethos, and eventually a new building, would give young people in Workington what they deserve – the best possible chance to succeed at school and in life."

She added: “I have no doubt that there will be many questions and indeed concerns. We wouldn’t be proposing this option if we didn’t think it was the right thing to do, but a new school will only be a success if it reflects the needs and aspirations of the local community. That’s why we need people to take part in the consultation.

“Our absolute priority is to give local young people a great education; it would be doing them a massive disservice if we did not act now to secure their futures.”

An initial statutory six-week consultation process will begin on Monday.

Under the plans, all pupils would automatically be enrolled in the new academy, as would those who have applied for year seven places for September 2014 at either school.

Bright Tribe, which had been working alongside Stainburn and Southfield in a bid for them to merge and become an academy, will now have to compete with other potential sponsors.

Professor David Hopkins, its education director, says Bright Tribe remains committed to the project and is determined to be appointed as the sponsor for the new academy.

Potential sponsors can be high-performing schools, further education colleges, sixth form colleges, universities, businesses and entrepreneurs, educational foundations, charities and philanthropists or faith communities.

The sponsor will be responsible for the performance and finances of the academy, setting up the academy trust, selecting the governing body and recruiting the headteacher.

The council will make a recommendation in relation to the choice of sponsor to the Secretary of State who will make the final decision.

The council’s cabinet will then consider its response to consultation and make a decision on whether to agree publication of statutory proposals for the closure of both schools.

The new academy building will be funded by the Government’s Priority School Building programme.

Have your say

It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.

Posted by concerned and confused on 24 January 2014 at 10:24

It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.

Posted by concerned and confused on 24 January 2014 at 10:21

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