Parent pushback forces academy takeover rethink

Plans to academise Sheffield's last local authority-maintained secondary have been pushed back

Plans to academise Sheffield's last local authority-maintained secondary have been pushed back

14 May 2023, 5:00

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Parent power has pushed back plans to academise Sheffield's last maintained secondary school

Parent power has pushed back plans to convert Sheffield’s last local authority-maintained secondary into an academy, but sparked inequality concerns over schools without such well-educated parents.

Yorkshire and Humber regional director Alison Wilson has deferred a decision for the Brigantia Learning Trust to take over King Edward VII School (KES).

Education chiefs wanted the chain to take over KES – which calls itself one of the “most prestigious” secondaries in the city – following its ‘inadequate’ Ofsted in September.

But the proposal was only spotted when education professor Mark Boylan, whose daughter Sophia attends the school, stumbled upon an online copy of the regional advisory board meeting’s agenda a week before it took place. 

Parents who challenged the decision said this left them with just three days to make their views known. They also claimed KES was not made aware until this point. 

“It’s not right that parents who’ve got the resources of various types – among us are journalists, campaigners and lawyers – got the decision deferred,” Boylan said.

“Whereas parents in other places may be none the wiser, and not even know there’s an agenda or that they can make a representation. There’s inequity to the decision-making process.” 

Wilson decided to push the decision back to June or July “to allow further analysis to be carried out, comparing a number of suitable multi-academy trusts, including Brigantia”. 

KES headteacher Linda Godden stated in a letter the regional director had “looked at all the communications she received from the school, parents, carers and external parties” ahead of the meeting. 

General ‘lack of transparency’ around academisation

Two of Brigantia’s five schools are classed as “coasting”, as they received two less-than-good Ofsteds in a row. 

The government gave itself powers last year to move primaries and secondaries struggling to move out of ‘requires improvement’ into alternative trusts – but opponents claimed KES’s proposed move flew in the face of the crackdown.

“If you are voluntarily academised, parents get consulted, but as soon as it’s forced academisation, they’re not,” Boylan added.

“Beyond this particular example, there’s a general issue with the lack of transparency, lack of involvement of schools – it’s just rubbish.” 

A Brigantia spokesperson said “clarification” of what was discussed at the advisory board meeting “will be communicated as and when we are able to share this information”. 

The Department for Education stressed KES “as with any school that receives an overall judgement of ‘inadequate’, will become an academy and be transferred to a strong trust”. 

A spokesperson added further analysis will “ensure the school is transferred to the most appropriate trust with a strong track record of ensuring pupils receive the highest standard of education – while retaining its historic ethos.”

The spokesperson did not respond when asked why analysis was not done prior to the meeting. 

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