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Somerset - Academy could save faith school

Church leaders concerned that declining numbers will lead to the closure of a faith secondary in Taunton have agreed to sponsor a new academy. They were told this was the only way to keep the school open.

Somerset County Council said the only option it had for St Augustine of Canterbury School was to merge it with nearby Ladymead Community School.

The secondary can take 610 pupils but the number on roll for September 2009 is just 253.

A working group set up three years ago to review the falling rolls in the town reported that it "became clear" an academy could be a solution, but only if another secondary was prepared to amalgamate with St Augustine. Ladymead is also under-subscribed: it can take 875 pupils, but the projected number for September is 714.

Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, backed the council to develop an expression of interest, the first stage of becoming an academy, in April last year. Consultants were appointed last summer and approval given in February. The school is set to open in September 2010, with funding agreed by the end of this year.

The lead sponsor is the Diocese of Bath and Wells. The Diocese of Clifton elected to become a partner rather than a sponsor and Somerset County Council will become a co-sponsor.

Consultation on closing the schools and the academy opening will run concurrently. km.

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