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Friday, 31 October 2014

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Parents threaten to pull children out of failing west Cumbrian schools

Furious parents have threatened to pull their children out of two failed schools.

Celia Tibble  photo
Celia Tibble

Related: Stainburn: Leadership, management and pupil achievement inadequate

Related: Southfield: Leaders not effectively tackle areas of improvement

Workington’s Southfield Technology College and Stainburn School and Science College have been placed in special measures after Ofsted inspectors branded them inadequate.

Cumbria County Council is closing them both in December and re-launching them as one academy next year.

It comes as Alan Mottershead, the head of Trinity School in Carlisle, described the academy system as a “mincemeat mess” which was harming young people.

Parents in Workington have been left fuming by the damning Ofsted verdict and have threatened extreme action.

One woman, who did not want to be named, said she might remove her child from Southfield Technology College.

Jill Brough, 39, of Harringdale Road, High Harrington, is also considering taking daughters Kathryn, 15, and Charlotte, 11, out of Stainburn. She said: “When my daughters have asked for more help they haven’t got it and it’s shocking.”

David Surtees, 53, of Kelswick Park, Seaton, said: “We're really not surprised by the report. We have had issues in the past.”

Helen Foskett, 46, of Barncroft Avenue, Seaton, with daughter Lauren, 17, said: “They need to solve the root of the problem. I don’t think the teachers have the discipline.”

Brian Jones, 73, of Bank Road, Workington, said his grandchildren at Southfield, Elliott, 14, and Lisa-Marie, 16, were “very upset”.

Anne Hodgson, 68, of Charters Close, Workington, with grandson Kyle Ellwood, 13, wasn’t sure if his parents would move him from Stainburn.

But Trevor Whitehead, 64, of Barnett Drive, Workington, with son Tommy Lee, 15, said he’d never had any issues with Stainburn.

Celia Tibble, a Labour councillor and former chairman of governors at Stainburn, insisted the Government had let both schools down by pulling funding for the Building Schools for the Future scheme.

Stainburn governors this morning issued a statement: “As the governing body for Stainburn School we are obviously disappointed with the outcome of the recent Ofsted inspection, particularly as the school had been judged on two separate occasions in 2013 as making ‘good progress’ against the Ofsted agreed plan from the previous inspection in November 2012.

“This judgement gives Cumbria County Council new powers and a consultation process will commence to provide a single new academy in Workington – the outcome that our staff and governors have been working hard to achieve over the last 12 months – Cumbria County Council will now take this forward.

“As governors we remain fully committed to the continued improvement of the school to ensure all our pupils achieve the best possible education.”

Governors at Southfield have challenged the inspectors’ finding while the headteachers of both schools will keep their jobs.

The county council’s formal consultations on its plans to turn the schools into an academy will begin on Monday and it hopes to find a sponsor.

The eventual home of the new academy would be a new building on the Stainburn site, expected to open in 2017. The Diocese of Carlisle, which covers most of the county, is launching an academy trust and said it would be willing to enter discussions about sponsoring a local school.

Caroline Sutton, the county council’s assistant director of children’s services, said people could expect to see rapid changes at Southfield and Stainburn. “The local authority now has statutory powers of intervention and we will be closely monitoring the school,” she said.

Meanwhile, Mr Mottershead gave his personal views as part of a Government study into academies and free schools.

In his evidence, he said academies had not been given the freedoms many had hoped because of new Government demands.

He said: “We had hoped to be able to develop our own pathways-based curriculum, with something fairly bespoke for each student or group of students.

“Instead, we have to comply with new measures in designing the essence of our curriculum.”

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