Beds, Herts & Bucks

Gatehouse School: Academy status secures future

A Milton Keynes school is set to become what is believed to be the first academy for special educational needs pupils in the country.

The change will secure the future of Gatehouse School in Stantonbury, where abuse was uncovered in 2009.

The school, which caters for 13 to 19-year-old boys with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties, will close on 31 March 2012.

The academy, which has not yet been named, will open on 1 April 2012.

Full consultation

Gatehouse has 22 pupils, most of whom have been excluded from mainstream education, and it is hoped it will eventually have 40 pupils and also accept girls.

In March 2009, an investigation by Milton Keynes Council into the methods of handling pupils at the school revealed that between 2005 and 2008, children were regularly forcibly restrained.

The process to become an academy has taken about 18 months and was agreed after a full consultation with parents, carers, pupils and staff.

The school will be sponsored in the process by St Paul's Catholic School and the company Serco.

Academy status means it will be directly funded by the Department for Education, and being sponsored by an Ofsted outstanding school will offer access to a wider curriculum and shared resources and expertise.

'Rocky road'

Chairman of governors Sandra Clarke, who was also the Liberal Democrat councillor in charge of schools when the abuse was uncovered, said: "Lots of schools are converting to academies but this is the first time that a special school has done it.

"Gatehouse has been working on its own and its very difficult for a small special school.

"We're hoping our partnership with an outstanding school like St Paul's can strengthen links with secondary schools generally and be part of that community so that we can make use of some of their facilities and their expertise."

Ms Clarke said she was "delighted" that the school's future was secure after "a very rocky road".

"I think the school has done a very good job at reassuring the parents, but the time has now come to put the past well and truly behind us and move forward on a very positive note," she said.

"We think giving the school a new identity and new sponsors and being part of the mainstream curriculum is what the school needs for the future."

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