Local authority starts consultation to merge schools amid academy fears

A local authority is proposing to merge two schools in what appears to be an attempt to stop one being forced into an academy.

Governors have put forward plans to merge Ofsted outstanding-rated Torriano Junior School with the Torriano Infant School, which is rated requires improvement.

The schools are currently in a soft federation and are on different sites.

The proposal follows a private inspection from a qualified Ofsted inspector – commissioned by governors – which found the infant school was in danger of being graded requires improvement again.

Governors said a “speedy solution” was required for the lack of strong leadership, adding “another poor Ofsted inspection could have serious consequences for the school”.

Schools Week revealed in April the “unusual” involvement of Telford and Wrekin Council in setting up the Telford Co-Operative Multi-Academy Trust.

Council representatives sat on the board and advised the trust, before leaving when its four schools were rated as inadequate and a new trust took over.

Newham Council also ran into trouble when delving into the academy process. Three town hall managers quit after they went against legal advice to set up a sixth form.

Earlier this month Camden Council launched a public consultation on plans to merge the two schools. Councillors will decide it goes ahead with a vote in August.

The merge would take place on September 1.

Luca Salice, chair of governors at the junior school, told Schools Week: “There is an expectation of governors to take action in such cases, and that if neither governors nor the local authority (LA) take action, the government has the right to intervene, and had indeed done so in many cases nationally – though so far not in Camden.

“The LA in Camden is keen to ensure that its schools perform well. Children have a right to a good education, and this creates a degree of urgency.”

Consultant head Juliette Jackson, executive head of three other Camden schools, was appointed in May until the end of summer to oversee leadership during the merger.

But the proposals have angered staff and parents. A statement from staff at the infant school said: “We are concerned at the way this consultation has been conducted, the speed and lack of consideration in which this change is being made.”

And one source told Schools Week: “The authority has used academisation as scaremongering to push the merger forward with such speed.

“It’s undermining all the work we’ve done. The agenda has been clear from day one.”

The NUT and Unison have both stepped in and the source added: “There will be restructuring if the merger goes ahead. There could be a mass teacher walk out.

“It will cause a real stretch of expertise for the community. I don’t understand why we can’t be two great schools working together. We just want to have a debate about what’s best for the children.”

When Camden Council was approached for comment by Schools Week, it directed us to the school’s governors.

But the council’s website says the merger would mean greater continuity for pupils and potential for stronger leadership, governance and an improved ability to recruit and retrain leaders.

The primary school would accept 420 pupils and would be split on both sites. There would be just one headteacher and one governing body – made up of members from both the infant and juniors.