Sixth-form college takeover of junior school dropped

Campaigners had objected to DfE academisation plan for a college MAT to run a junior and infants school

John Roberts

A post 16 college trust has withdrawn from a controversial plan to run a junior and infants school

A controversial academy plan for a post-16 college trust to take over a junior and infants school has been dropped after the sponsor pulled out.

New Collaborative Learning Trust – which runs three post-16 colleges – has decided to withdraw from running Mackie Hill Junior and Infant School in Crigglestone, near Wakefield, West Yorkshire, after months of local opposition.

The planned academisation had been opposed by local parent campaigners, Wakefield Council and Wakefield’s MP Mary Creagh.

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The trust’s withdrawal was confirmed in a letter from regional schools commissioner for Lancashire and West Yorkshire Vicky Beer to the Wakefield MP.

Ms Beer said the Department for Education was looking for alternative sponsors and expected to identify one by September.

However, Ms Creagh has urged the DfE to put plans to academise Mackie Hill on hold.

She said: “I am delighted that the government’s attempt to force Mackie Hill to become an academy has collapsed with the withdrawal of the proposed sponsor. 

“Staff, parents and pupils have resisted this ideological attempt to force the school to become an academy, when it is making huge progress with under their new headteacher, Jayne Elliott, with support from local schools Kettlethorpe High and Dane Royd primary.

“Ministers should now listen to local parents who want the primary to stay in this partnership, give the school the chance to be reinspected by Ofsted, and end this ideologically driven uncertainty for parents, pupils and staff.

Mackie Hill had been lined up to become an academy following a critical Ofsted inspection in December 2017, which placed the school in special measures.

Wakefield Council had asked the DfE to suspend an academisation order on the school last year to allow Mackie Hill to merge with neighbouring secondary school Kettlethorpe High, which had been supporting it.

However, the academy order remained in place.

'Disappointment' over academisation order

In November last year, Beate Wagner, Wakefield Council’s corporate director for children and young people, told Tes that the council was “extremely disappointed with the secretary of state’s decision to not rescind the academy order for Mackie Hill School”.

She added: “Our proposal for closure of Mackie Hill through amalgamation with Kettlethorpe as a through school had been based on what we felt was in the very best interests of the children. We consulted on the plans extensively, and there was wide support from parents and the local community. 

In December, the DfE revealed that the regional schools commissioner had referred the case of Mackie Hill’s academisation to academies minister Lord Agnew for further consideration. 

The department said this was “common practice for complex or sensitive cases.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “We are striving for a world class education for all children regardless of background, and when we see issues of underperformance we will not hesitate to take action.

“Crigglestone Mackie Hill Junior and Infant School was issued an academy order because it was rated inadequate by Ofsted. Our priority is, and always should be, the wellbeing, safeguarding and education of pupils.

“We are considering alternative sponsors for Mackie Hill School to raise standards and provide it with the necessary sustainable support.”

However Ms Wagner said that Wakefield Council will ask the education secretary to rescind the academy order once the school comes out of special measures.

New Collaborative Learning Trust have been approached for a comment. 

The trust runs two sixth-form colleges – New College Pontefract and New College Doncaster – and is set to open a new sixth-form free school college in Bradford later this year.

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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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