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Failing school joins forces in academy

But teachers' leaders fear other local schools will be left to pick up the pieces. Joe Clancy reports

A high-flying city technology college and its failing neighbour are planning to merge to form anacademy.

Struggling Bradford Cathedral community college hopes to amalgamate with Dixons city technology college, less than a mile away.

Last year the Cathedral college obtained the third worst GCSE results in the country, with only 5 per cent of pupils gaining five A*-C grades. In February inspectors put put it on special measures for the second time.

Dixons CTC results, however, were well above the national average, with 75 per cent achieving five top grades. Last year it had 700 applicants for 160 places.

The two schools have registered an "expression of interest" with the Department for Education and Skills to become a city academy with the electrical goods chain Dixons as the main sponsor.

Uniquely, the combined school will offer a dual speciality in technology and performing arts, with each site accommodating 1,000 pupils.

The catchment area of the Cathedral college is drawn from working-class estates and 98 per cent of its pupils are white.

Dixons CTC takes pupils from across the West Yorkshire city. It selects pupils from nine ability bands to ensure a balanced intake, and nearly 40 per cent are from ethnic minorities.

David Kershaw, the "superhead" brought in to rescue the Cathedral College, said the academy would have one overall head and one management team for the sites.

"There would be an agreed ethos and curriculum. At ages 14 and 16 pupils would be able to move from one site to the other. Some key staff would have responsibilities in both sites. It is an imaginative proposal that has great potential to raise standards of achievement even further. There is a new climate of schools wanting to work in partnership."

John Lewis, who has been head at Dixons CTC since its 1990 opening, said:

"The request for assistance came from the Cathedral college and we were obviously well aware of the deep-seated problems it has had for many years.

"I felt the only way to meet the challenge was to do something quite radical. We are a beacon school and the concept of helping other schools is very much part of our philosophy."

However, teachers' unions, expressed doubts about how the academy would work. Ian Davey of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers said: "I can see vast problems. Pay and conditions are entirely different and we promise our members we will consider industrial action and they are changed."

Ian Murch, of the National Union of Teachers, said: "I am concerned that this merger will just transfer the problems at Cathedral college to other schools in south Bradford."

Both unions have been invited for consultations on the issues.

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