Two primary schools that were ordered by the Department for Education to become academies are set to close because no academy trust would take them on.
Surrey County Council this week launched public consultations on plans to shut Green Oak C of E Primary in Godalming and Ripley C of E Primary, Ripley.
Under the 2016 Education and Adoption Act, all “inadequate” maintained schools must be turned into academies. The government issued directive academy orders for both schools.
The two consultations on closing the schools both say: “The effect of the order is that the school must be placed within a multi-academy trust (MAT) to secure its future. As no appropriate MAT has been identified to take the school forward, it is necessary for the council to undertake consultation on the future provision at the school.”
Waiting on sponsors
Last year, a Tes investigation found that a quarter of schools that had been issued with directive academy orders after being rated “inadequate” were still waiting for a sponsor 12 months later.
At the time, a DfE response to a freedom of information request said Green Oak had been matched with a sponsor.
Both primaries are Church of England schools, and under a national agreement between the church and the DfE, the local diocese has to approve any proposed sponsor and be satisfied that they can safeguard the religious character of the school.
Although the Diocese of Guildford has a multi-academy trust, the Good Shepherd Trust (GST), the consultations say the regional schools commissioner has “stated that that there is no appropriate MAT [multi-academy trust]” to sponsor the schools.
David Brown, interim CEO of the GST, said it “has an obligation to its existing academies to ensure that any new school does not have a detrimental effect on the services available to the schools and pupils already in its care”.
He added: “After carefully researching Green Oak’s circumstances and being unable to access any additional funds to channel into the school, GST took the difficult decision that it could not viably become part of the trust.”
No appropriate academies
Alex Tear, the diocesan director of education, said that there was an agreed plan for the “managed and responsible growth” of GST, and “the current circumstances of Green Oak have significant implications for its future viability, which means that the trust is not in a position to sponsor this school”.
A Surrey County Council spokesperson said: “As no appropriate academy trusts have been found to take over the running of these schools we have made the difficult decision to begin consulting on closing them. Our main priority is protecting the future education of existing pupils and if they do close we will guarantee places for all of them at other schools.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We continue to work with Surrey County Council and the Diocese of Guildford regarding Green Oak Primary school to ensure all children receive the best possible education”