New sponsor and 'substantial capital programme' confirmed for struggling Whitehaven Academy

The Cumbria Education Trust (CET) has been given leave to take on the troubled Whitehaven Academy in Cumbria, more than seven months after Bright Tribe announced its intention to walk away from the school.

In a statement, CET said it has been confirmed as the school’s new sponsor by the education secretary Damian Hinds, after its board of trustees passed a resolution to take over at the ailing school.

This is a brilliant news day for The Whitehaven Academy, at long last we are finally seeing the bright light in what can only be described as a very dark tunnel

Lord Agnew, the academies minister, has also confirmed the Department for Education will fund a “substantial capital programme”. The department would not say how much it intends to spend, but the CET says it will see the “majority of the existing school buildings demolished and rebuilt”.

“This agreement will provide a fresh start for everyone associated with Whitehaven Academy and will help ensure students get the education they deserve as part of a strong multi-academy trust,” said Agnew.

“The academy will be transformed to provide a modern learning environment, and I am confident that the Cumbria Education Trust has the expertise to improve standards for pupils.”

It comes at a pivotal time for the school, which has been at the centre of a row with parents and local officials over the state of school buildings and falling standard. Bright Tribe announced it would relinquish its control of the school last November, following criticism of its handling of the worsening situation.

CET, which runs six other schools in the county, was first lined up as Whitehaven’s new sponsor in March, but said at the time it had “many issues to review” before taking on the struggling school.

The trust has already begun providing school improvement support at the school, and used money from the government’s strategic school improvement fund to provide resources, including “much-needed” revision materials.

Lorrayne Hughes, chief executive of CET, said the trust’s first priority would be “a relentless focus on school improvement to ensure that every young person can reach their potential”.

The school has been in special measures since late 2016.

“We will be looking to raise aspirations so that all students will strive to ‘be the best they can be’ – the trust’s motto,” said Hughes. “The support we have received from the DfE and Education and Skills Funding Agency will ensure that we are able to continue on the improvement journey with pace.”

In a letter to parents, Whitehaven headteacher Warren Turner said he was “extremely pleased”, and “determined to ensure that the young people who attend The Whitehaven Academy have access to an improving education and I know that Cumbria Education Trust is committed to the academy and education provision in Cumbria”.

“We will benefit greatly from this new and exciting partnership,” he added.

Trudy Harrison, the MP for Copeland and a member of the parliamentary education committee, called for Bright Tribe to withdraw from the school last year when she was escorted from the site during a visit to check on flood damage.

She hailed a “brilliant news day for The Whitehaven Academy”.

“AT long last we are finally seeing the bright light in what can only be described as a very dark tunnel.

“Today signifies a new day for The Whitehaven Academy with a sponsor who I am personally excited about, the security of a new school being built, and an education that our students deserve to ensure their bright futures are realised in Copeland.”