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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

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Top level talks demand after Workington schools put in special measures

The failure of two of the three secondary schools in Workington has been coming for years according to a senior Allerdale councillor.

Mark Fryer photo
Mark Fryer

Related: Ofsted puts senior schools in same town into special measures

Councillor Mark Fryer has demanded top level talks over the future of Stainburn School and Southfield Technology College.

Workington MP Sir Tony Cunningham is also hoping to meet with Stewart Young and Diane Wood, the leader and chief executive of Cumbria County Council following the authority’s decision to propose to close the schools, which are both expected to be placed in special measures following damning Ofsted reports.

Cumbria County Council has already written to parents of pupils at both schools to reveal that inspectors found standards of education to be “inadequate”.

The authority plans to use new powers to shut down the schools and replace them with a new single academy.

The state of education in Workington was raised at an Allerdale Council meeting last night.

Mr Fryer, who has three children who attended Stainburn School and two yet to enter the secondary education system, said: “It’s a building block of our community. We are sitting here today with two schools failing which is absolutely abhorrent.

“Without good education we get poor health, poor job prospects and a poor future unless we look to rallying together as a council and putting some demands down to the county council, the headteachers within these schools and the government.”

He added: “Look at those 750-1,000 children in these schools. If it was 1,000 jobs I think everybody in this room would be standing up and saying what a disgrace it was. It’s about the future of this town and the whole economy.

“I have always been a supporter of the local schools in my own town. Today’s a pretty desperate day when we have got two schools that are failing.

“This hasn’t just come in the last fortnight. It’s been coming for the last three or four years, maybe more. We can play a part in making sure the parents and more importantly the children are not let down.”

He called on council leader Alan Smith to meet with those involved in the schools and their future.

Councillor Celia Tibble criticised the government for scrapping the Building Schools for the Future programme, under which Workington had been promised money for a new school to replace Stainburn and Southfield. She added: “If they hadn’t taken away the funding when we were well down the way we’d have been two years away from opening a brand new school in Workington.”

Mr Smith said the council would arrange a meeting as soon as possible with the county council and anybody else involved in the situation.

Elsewhere, MP Sir Tony Cunningham, a former teacher, said: “In my view it is idealogically driven with Ofsted going into schools, moving them into bad reports and driving them into the academy system.

“The Government have an ambition to create as many academies as possible and this is one way of doing it.”

He added: “We are not in the position we’d like to be in but we’ve got to make the best of the circumstances so I’d urge parents to get involved in the consultations that are being launched. I’ve always found the schools to be very good and have very committed teams of staff. I’ve been quite open of my praise of the two schools and the work they do.”

The Government is backing the county council’s shock proposals that could formally close the two schools and see a new sponsor move in to create the town’s first academy.

A spokeswoman at the Department for Education said: “Both Stainburn and Southfield schools applied to convert to academy status but, in the light of the recent Ofsted inadequate judgements, we believe the best way forward is for Cumbria County Council to seek closure of both schools and run a competitive process to set up a single academy under the leadership of a strong sponsor.”

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.

Following the council’s initial six-week consultation period, it will then decide whether to formally publish statutory proposals to close the two schools before a date to shut them is agreed. A decision on a new sponsor will be taken by the Education Secretary.

If closure is agreed, the existing schools would close in December and a new academy open next January. It would operate over two sites until a new purpose-built campus, most likely at Stainburn, has been built.

Workington’s three secondary schools were among a number of county schools inspected by Ofsted in a blitz before Christmas. Inspectors, in an Ofsted report published recently, stated St Joseph’s Catholic High School ‘requires improvement’.

The county council’s initial six-week consultation on proposed closure of the two schools starts on Monday. Details will be found at www.cumbria.gov.uk/haveyoursay.

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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