Baverstock Academy closure on again after second government U-turn
An academy told it would close down before a volte-face from the schools commissioner has now been informed it will likely be shut down after all.
Baverstock Academy, in Birmingham, was told by the government it could consult on closure, before this decision was reversed in October with the former West Midlands regional schools commissioner Pank Patel stating efforts to find a new sponsor had “progressed positively”.
But despite a vocal campaign from parents and Birmingham Selly Oak MP Steve McCabe, the government has now told the school it can close after all.
This Government has completely betrayed my constituents
Baverstock, which has been in special measures since September 2014, is another example of a failing academy in need of support but has been shunned by sponsors.
Schools Week revealed last week how the Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) will no longer sponsor Hanson academy, in Bradford.
The trust had run the school, in special measures, on a 12-month “try before you buy” deal but walked away – despite being given extra government funding to take over schools in the region.
Baverstock will now run a four-week consultation for stakeholders to submit their views on the closure before a final decision is made.
McCabe (pictured right) told the Birmingham Mail: “This Government has completely betrayed my constituents over Baverstock Academy.
“I have repeatedly been told by the Department for Education (DfE) that every effort was being made to secure a sponsor to take over the Baverstock but now it seems they were just biding their time to close the school regardless.”
McCabe has written to education secretary Justine Greening to demand “answers about exactly what the government has been doing to save the school and how much it will cost to close the school rather than keep it open”.
However sources claimed that two trusts had looked closely and were committed to sponsoring the school, but seemingly deemed the issues at the academy too large to turn around.
The government said the school would close no earlier than August 2017, allowing current pupils to complete their GCSE courses.
Non-GCSE pupils would be moved to other schools “on a phased basis”.
As of October, Baverstock had 417 pupils on roll. It has a capacity for 1,330 pupils.
The Leadership, Education and Partnership (LEAP) trust, which runs the school, was issued a financial notice to improve in 2015.
It followed financial irregularities over payments to an unnamed recipient and “significant weaknesses” in financial oversight at the trust.
The government found LEAP lacked capacity to address the issues and put an interim academy board in place in December 2015.
An Ofsted inspection published in November flagged up concerns over a “lack of sponsor”.
The report read: “Changes to leadership and governance have failed to stem the rapid deterioration in the quality of education provide. Staff morale is at rock bottom and there is no shared vision.”
Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, told Schools Week last week that sponsors shunning schools showed the “dangers of leaving education to the market”.
“It’s a rational market response because it jeopardises your brand.”
She added: “There doesn’t seem to be a coherent strategy to ensure ministers can ensure these schools get the support they need and that they aren’t left floundering.”
A DfE spokesperson said they have agreed in principle to the closure after a request from the LEAP trust.
“Our priority is to ensure all children receive the best possible education and where that is not happening action must be taken. We will be working with LEAP and the local authority to identify alternative places for students to ensure their education is not disrupted.”