Academy to take over school at risk of closure

Academy to take over school at risk of closure
Credit Julia Gregory/LDR service

A school which was earmarked for closure because of vacant places is being taken over by an academy.

Relieved parents at Pooles Park primary were told The Bridge Trust will take over the school in the next academic year.

Catherine Galvin said: “We are elated that we got an academy sponsor that matches the needs of our pupils and the school’s caring culture.”

Parents campaigned to keep the school open and handed in a petition to the council signed by 133 families.

The news comes days after Islington council’s executive of senior politicians formally voted to shut the school in December over a drop in funding and launch a month-long consultation.

In parallel with that procress the Department of Education was deciding the school’s future.

NOW READ: Formal consultation on school closure

An academy can step in because the school had an inadequate rating in its latest Ofsted inspection last year.

It meant the Department of Education invited academy sponsors to take over and agreed to a pitch by The Bridge Trust at a regional meeting last week.

The school was in deficit and was suffering a £5,700 cut in government funding for each empty desk. The council said falling birth rates, Brexit and te cost of living were to blame.

The Bridge Trust runs a primary school in Islington and three special schools in London with additional specialist provision sand has a new school in Norwich for children with special educational needs, with another school in Norfolk due to join.

The Bridge Trust’s chief executive Dr Penny Barratt said: “We are close-knit group of schools that works hard to learn from each other. We have a proven track record of supporting schools that have had a challenging time, and we’re really looking forward to working with the Pooles Park team and their families.”

She said it has been “an uncertain and worrying time for parents and we hope this will come as reassuring news that their school will not be closing but given additional support and care so that their children can thrive.”

In a letter to parents, seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, she said “I am sure you will have lots of questions. We will meet with the leadership team at the school and arrange a date for a meeting where you can raise those questions.”

She explained the school will formally join The Bridge Trust in the next academic year and will “work closely” with Hungerford School. That Islington school joined the academy after an inadequate Ofsted inspection and has now been rated as good.

According to the Department for Education when an academy becomes a school sponsor “our expectation is that the school will remain open and transfer to the trust on an agreed date with the local authority.”

The building and land will also be leased by Islington council to the trust.
School parent Paul Levy-Adophy said staff and parents have gone through a lot of stress and uncertainty about the school’s future since the council told them it was at risk in March.

Since then parents have met the council’s education team in a series of meetings and some families decided to move their children to other schools.
He said: “We are over the moon and the 127 years of security for the school has been secured.”

The school has a high number of children with special educational needs and he said: “The sponsor has additional SEND funding, we could not have asked for a better result.”

He called on education bosses to use the much valued school and community garden at the site as a model for other schools.
“If you walk through the garden your jaw drops. If you are really concerned about the welfare and well-being of children there should be that infrastructure. It should never be taken away from children.

“Why do working class kids have to tolerate concrete jungles?”
Pooles Park had just 20 new entrants in its reception class this year and had a 55% vacancy rate across all its classes.

Other schools in the Hornsey educational area also have high vacancy rates.
They include Christ the King Roman Catholic School with a 40% vacancy rate – with 234 children and up to 390 places.

Montem has a 38% vacancy rate with 262 pupils out of a capacity of 420 and Whitehall Park has a 36% vacancy rate. It has 267 children and space for up to 420 pupils.

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