Cornish free school to be merged with nearby academy

A £4.5 million free school will merge with a nearby academy after failing to attract enough pupils.

St Michael’s Catholic Secondary School in Camborne, Cornwall, opened in September 2012 and currently has about 150 pupils, against a planned intake of 180.

Last year Ofsted told the school that it required improvement but noted that financial oversight of governors was said to be ensuring “the efficient management of finances”.

Since February the school has been in talks with Camborne Science and International Academy (CSIA), which sponsors a nearby academy. From September St Michael’s will cease to exist and pupils will be transferred to CISA.

The free school’s headteacher, Neil Anderson, resigned last July after the Ofsted verdict. CISA’s vice principal, Emma Haase, stepped in as acting head.

In a statement, CSIA said: “It has now been agreed, after careful consideration and consultation with the Department for Education (DfE), that St Michael’s as a separate school is not a viable proposition, both financially and in the quality educational opportunities and experiences it can offer the students enrolled at the school.”

The proposal now is that, on 1 September 2016, CSIA and St Michael’s school will become one entity.

The trust is planning to use the school building at St Michael’s to create a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Centre of Excellence.

In a statement CSIA said the “facility will be for students displaying a strong interest, ability and aptitude in STEM subjects, studying under the Multi Academy Trust banner. The centre will be made available for other local primary schools and organisations interested in all aspects of STEM.”

It added: “The proposed centre will be an additional facility and not an independent entity. This will enable the large amount of public money that has been invested in St Michael’s Free School site to be put to excellent use benefitting a very large number of students, schools and the wider community”

A DfE spokesperson said: “We will support the trust to ensure all pupils concerned receive the best possible education.”

St Michael’s is the fourth free school to face closure. Two other schools have already closed and one closed the secondary part of its school.

However, education secretary Nicky Morgan this week reaffirmed the Conservatives’ commitment to open 500 more free schools over the next five years.