Reach South takes on a troubled free school and a struggling UTC

The Reach South Academy Trust has taken on troubled Bournemouth free school Parkfield School, which has been waiting for a sponsor since 2016, alongside acquiring a struggling university technical college.

The trust adopted Parkfield, now an all-through academy, on September 1, and UTC Plymouth (pictured) on October 1.

Schools Week has followed the progress of Parkfield School since 2015, when it announced it would be moving to a permanent site by an airport runway – despite problems with asbestos, bats and a credible threat from unexploded second world war mines. It had previously been housed in an office block in Bournemouth town centre.

An interim academy board was brought into the school in November 2016 to “drive up standards” but by February 2017 the school had still not moved onto its new £35 million site and was waiting in temporary accommodation for a trust to take it on.

Ambitions Academy Trust was initially proposed, but the plans fell through.

The school finally moved to its new location in September 2017, but was then rated “requires improvement” for a second time by Ofsted in October.

The new principal, Ian Golding, said the school has recently been on “a rapid journey of improvement”.

UTC Plymouth was rated “inadequate” by Ofsted in April 2016. No pupils joined year 10 in 2017 and numbers fell to only 75 by the end of the year, despite a capacity of 600.

Principal Polly Lovell said the UTC is “hoping to get confirmation shortly regarding taking our first year 9 students from September 2019”.

Reach South runs 11 other primary, secondary and special schools in Devon, Dorset and Wiltshire.

Dean Ashton, chief executive of the trust, said it had been “working closely with both organisations for some time now” and commended their leaders for “already driving improvement locally”.

Staff at both Parkfield and UTC Plymouth will transfer to Reach South.