1. Council writes off school £1.6m deficit

    Local Democracy Reporting Service

    James Binding

    A County Durham school which is about to join a multi academy trust has had its £1.6m deficit written off by council bosses.

    St Bede’s RC Comprehensive in Peterlee has been supported by the Northern Saints Academy Trust, now the Bishop Chadwick Catholic Academy Trust, since 2015.

    This has put it on an "upward trajectory" after a "requires improvement" rating from Ofsted and a sharp decline in pupil numbers, Durham County Council cabinet member Olwyn Gunn said.

    But full conversation could not happen without historic deficits being covered by the council, she said.

    Financial liability for future years will transfer to the academy trust.

    St Bede's RC Comprehensive, Peterlee

    St Bede’s is the only diocesan maintained secondary school in County Durham. All other Roman Catholic secondary schools in the county have converted to academy status over the last eight years.

  2. Redevelopment plans unveiled for Whitehaven Academy

    Plans have been unveiled for a £20m rebuild of a crumbling school in West Cumbria.

    Whitehaven Academy was put into special measures in 2016; but now, under the control of the Cumbria Education Trust, it will be redeveloped with government funding.

    The 6,720 sq m building will have the capacity for 900 students - up from 540 - and will include 21 classrooms, seven science labs and two art studios with views across the Lakeland fells.

    A planning application will be considered in December, with the new building expected to open in 2021.

    Whitehaven Academy
  3. Academy criticised over cuts threat

    Local Democracy Reporting Service

    A primary school in Greenwich is the latest to come under criticism from anti-academy campaigners as details emerge of potential cuts.

    Maritime Academy Trust, which runs Brooklands Primary School in Kidbrooke, has come under fire for placing jobs at risk.

    It follows strikes at The Halley Academy and the ongoing saga at The John Roan over forced "academisation".

    The MAT has been criticised for placing a pair of office staff at risk of redundancy, with a special needs assistant having already left.

    Tiffany Beck, the trust’s chair of trustees, said: “As is prudent for any employer, we are reviewing how as an organisation we deliver key services to ensure consistency, compliance with statutory requirements, and realise better ways of working.

    “We are currently consulting with administrative staff on proposals to centralise key finance and HR functions across the trust. Affected staff are being fully engaged in this process as are their Trade Union Representatives.

    “It would be inappropriate to comment on details or implications for any individual members of staff as the proposals have not yet been finalised.”

    The MAT runs schools across London and Kent, having taken on Brooklands Park in 2013.

    Academies are funded by the government, not the local council, and have more control over curriculum, admissions and pay.

    The day-to-day running of the school is with the head teacher or principal, but they are overseen by charitable bodies called academy trusts.

    Simon O’Hara, spokesman for the Anti Academies Alliance, said that examples such as this show academisation as a “failed experiment.”

    He said: “Schools are caught between the hammer of austerity and the anvil of privatisation.

    “Academisation is part of this and where a trust ‘toploads’ its staffing structure with senior managers, the inevitable consequence is what is happening at Brooklands – redundancies and a contraction of provision for all the children.

    “We need a full and open debate across society about how we can build a comprehensive, inclusive and democratic national education service – one that pledges to replace the failed experiment of academisation.”