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Federation pioneer fails inspection

A primary school that pioneered the idea of federated schools is facing closure after being placed in special measures for a second time.

Mixenden community primary in Halifax, west Yorkshire, became the subject of a radical experiment in school improvement in 1999 when Calderdale education authority asked the successful head of another of the town's primaries to help turn it around.

Jean Heslop, who won the first national Teaching Award for school leadership that year, was reluctant to give up her post at Cliffe Hill junior and infants and instead became the effective head of both schools.

Staff, governors and pupils all shared ideas in a partnership that pre-dated the Department for Education and Skills's proposals for formal federations of schools by more than two years.

Mixenden primary had been in special measures for two-and-a-half years when Mrs Heslop arrived in January 2000. Under the new arrangement it came out in less than a year.

In July 2002 Mrs Heslop retired, by which time the partnership between the schools had come to an end.

Last November, the Office for Standards in Education visited Mixenden and placed it back into special measures, citing problems including poor key stage 2 test results, unsatisfactory teaching and poor value for money.

Calderdale council will meet next week to decide whether to follow recommendations and begin closing the school.

Caroline Gruen, the authority's education director, said the move was prompted by the DfES's special measures team which felt that a fast-track closure by August was the "only realistic option".

Sue McMahon, Calderdale secretary of the National Union of Teachers , said the school had not been given a fair chance.

Its special measures action plan was not due in until March 8 and the LEA had told her the school would have at least until the end of term so that the impact of new staff could be assessed.

Mixenden, an isolated and deprived community of mainly local authority housing on the outskirts of Halifax, has one other primary school with just 15 spare places.

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