Newbold Riverside Primary disrupted by Government’s academy decision

Protesting parent outside Newbold Riverside Primary School.
Protesting parent outside Newbold Riverside Primary School.
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THE Government’s decision to force a school to academy status in the space of a few months hit staff morale, made recruiting staff difficult and was a “great inconvenience”.

Despite the Newbold Riverside Primary School and Warwickshire County Council’s best efforts to minimise disruption, Governors’ minutes from the schoolreveal it struggled to keep up with the pace of change demanded by the Department of Education (DfE), who told Governors around ten months ago to choose a sponsor to take over running the school, or have one chosen for them. Warwickshire County Council said they and the school had done everything possible to get the conversion right, with Governors citing the DfE’s “very rigid timetable” as one of the main causes of disruption.

Some parents are also angry about the decision as they will have less influence on how the school is run due to the sponsor, London-based trust REAch2, being granted majority control over the school’s Governors. Some also question REAch2’s motives.When governors asked Felicity Gillespie, a sponsor broker for the Department of Education, about this, she told them: “Sponsors are usually people who are passionate about education and want to make a difference.”

Although the school was considered satisfactory by Ofsted in 2011, it was singled out by the DfE for what it considered poor test results. A DfE spokesperson this week defended their decision.

“We think support from an academy sponsor is the best way to improve schools that are consistently under performing,” they said.

“Academies have already turned around hundreds of struggling schools across the country and are improving their results at twice the national average rate. We simply can’t stand by and allow schools to fail children.”

As part of the deal REAch2 has also been granted a 125 year lease on the school’s capital assets, such as land and buildings. While the trust cannot run the school for profit, it can run business services from the school for its not for profit trust. The deal also means existing staff are not subject to national pay scales or transfer of undertakings and protection of employment laws, meaning they could be facing a pay cut. The transfer will cost £25,000, paid for by the Department of Education, before it is funded using the same formula used by Warwickshire County Council. REAch2 will then control the school’s finances, curriculum and things like uniform, schooling hours and term dates.

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