Schools

New Michaela Stevenage school scrapped over lack of ‘basic need’

Headteacher Katharine Birbalsingh says opening second school would be 'financially detrimental' to other settings in the area

Headteacher Katharine Birbalsingh says opening second school would be 'financially detrimental' to other settings in the area

Plans for a new off-shoot of Britain’s “strictest school” in Hertfordshire have been scrapped as there is no longer the “basic need” for extra school places.

The Department for Education gave Michaela Community School in Wembley approval three years ago to open a mixed 11 to 19 free school in Stevenage in 2023.

Plans for the 1,260 pupil school were even approved by Stevenage Borough Council planning committee this month.

But Michaela headteacher Katharine Birbalsingh, pictured, said today that Hertfordshire County Council had “made it clear that there is no need yet for a new school” as the town’s “current schools have enough places”.

A development that was due to happen did not go ahead, so the population did not grow as expected.

Birbalsingh also claimed opening the school would be “financially detrimental” to other secondary schools in the area, which would “lose students”.

In 2018, DfE data predicted Hertfordshire would need an additional 300 places to meet demand two years later. The following year, the forecast of extra places needed was revised up to 1,090, but this fell to 870 in 2021.

Nationally, secondary pupil numbers are due to peak in 2024 before falling.

Birbalsingh said she did not know “when there might be enough need” for the school, and “as a result, we will no longer be opening our school in Stevenage”.

She said Michaela was “very sad”, but said it was “the right decision”. If a clear need is identified in future “then we would be delighted to consider returning to this project”.

Existing secondary schools would ‘lose students’

“To open our school would be financially detrimental to the existing six secondary schools as they would lose students. I have met a number of education leaders in Stevenage, including one headteacher who visited us in Wembley.

“We are not in the business of causing challenges for our colleagues at other schools. Far from it, our philosophy is to help schools be as good as they can be for the children and young people they serve.”

Michaela’s application to the DfE said the school would have a “behaviour boot camp” in the first days of year 7. It would be “renowned for its academic rigour” and “overcome barriers to learning”.

Birbalsingh said when Michaela made the application in 2018 that local authority data showed there was need for a six-form entry school from 2023.

This was needed due to the “ongoing development and subsequent population growth in the town and surrounding areas”.

DfE requires evidence of basic need for additional school places when assessing free school applications.

The Wembley school was rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted in 2017, but is renowned for its strict approach such as silent corridors and other controversial policies such as ditching SEND labels and giving detentions for failing to have a pen.

Birbalsingh also leads the Social Mobility Commission. Recently, the commission said it would investigate which teaching styles work best to boost outcomes for poorer pupils.

A Hertfordshire spokesperson said they were “disappointed” to learn Michaela had withdraw its free school application.

“While the creation of new free schools is a matter for the government, we had committed to improving the existing Stevenage Education Support Centre buildings as part of the DfE’s building scheme. It is unfortunate that these plans will not now be able to go ahead.”

Latest education roles from

Procurement Officer

Procurement Officer

RNN Group

Director of Marketing and Student Recruitment

Director of Marketing and Student Recruitment

Barnet and Southgate College

Professional Practice (TLA) Lead

Professional Practice (TLA) Lead

RNN Group

Health & Care Coordinator

Health & Care Coordinator

MidKent College

HR Assistant

HR Assistant

MidKent College

Principal, Cedar Mount Academy Bright Futures Educational Trust

Principal, Cedar Mount Academy Bright Futures Educational Trust

Satis Education

Sponsored posts

Sponsored post

Navigating NPQ Funding Cuts: Discover Leader Apprenticeships with NPQs

Recent cuts to NPQ funding, as reported by Schools Week, mean 14,000 schools previously eligible for scholarships now face...

SWAdvertorial
Sponsored post

How do you tackle the MIS dilemma?

With good planning, attention to detail, and clear communication, switching MIS can be a smooth and straightforward process, but...

SWAdvertorial
Sponsored post

How can we prepare learners for their future in an ever-changing world?

By focusing their curriculums on transferable skills, digital skills, and sustainability, schools and colleges can be confident that learners...

SWAdvertorial
Sponsored post

Inspiring Education Leaders for 10 Years

The 10th Inspiring Leadership Conference is to be held on 13 and 14 June 2024 at the ICC in...

SWAdvertorial

More from this theme

Schools

‘Children are our future and it’s for them that Tim dedicated his life’ 

Hundreds gather to remember the late Sir Tim Brighouse

Samantha Booth
Schools

Birmingham withdraws schools from £100m IT system

Heads were unable to make financial plans as glitches left them waiting months to learn the size of their...

Jack Dyson
Schools

Hinds says ‘all schools’ restrict phones, and 5 more key findings

Schools minister also says the 'option' of statutory mobile phone guidance remains

Freddie Whittaker
Schools

CST calls for policy changes over ‘unsustainable’ parent complaints

Academy body says rise in complaints is putting 'significant pressure on school leaders’

Jack Dyson

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *