YOUNGSTERS at two schools face an uncertain future after the shock announcement that their academy chain will be wound up following disappointing exam results.
The board at Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) — which runs Swinton Brookfield Primary Academy and Mexborough Academy — asked the Department for Education to find new sponsors for the schools.
Union leaders called for the school’s to be brought back under council control — but the authority said that would not be legally possible.
The two academies are part of the 21 schools currently run by WCAT, which announced last Friday it “does not have the capacity to facilitate the rapid improvement our academies need and our students deserve” and had requested the DfE placed its academies with new sponsors.
The DfE said the trust’s 2016 exam results were “disappointing” — with 11 of the 14 primary academies below the national average and six of the seven secondary schools also failing to meet the grade.
A DfE spokeswoman said: “We have agreed to the re-brokerage of all 21 schools under the WCAT’s control.”
The Regional Schools Commissioner is now working with the trust to identify new sponsors.
Brookfield joined WCAT in August 2015 and was placed in special measures by Ofsted a year later while Mexborough Academy joined the trust in January 2015.
Fred Sprague, branch secretary for the Rotherham National Education Union, said the academy system had let down children, parents and staff at Brookfield.
He said: “We always knew there was the possibility of this and that we would end up with chaos in the system — treating schools like businesses, means like businesses, they can go belly up.”
Mr Sprague added: “After the WCAT re-brokering, the school will have had three sponsors in four years.
“The whole academy agenda has been a busted flush for the community at Brookfield.
“Surely, there is an argument for Brookfield to be taken back by RMBC?”
But an RMBC spokesman said that “when a school becomes an academy this decision is legally irreversible”.
He added: “We will however continue to work with the DfE and the Regional Schools Commissioner to support a solution for Brookfield Academy in order to minimise disruption and the obvious anxieties that parents, carers, staff and pupils will undoubtedly have at this difficult time.”
Doncaster Council, which previously ran Mexborough Academy, echoed RMBC’s response.
Brookfield executive headteacher, Julie Mills, urged parents with concerns to contact her direct.
On Wednesday, the National Education Union and Trades Union Congress called for an independent review of the failings and for the government to hold immediate talks with the Trust and local authorities over the future of staff at the 21 schools.
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT added: “This isn’t the first example of a trust collapsing, putting in jeopardy the future of young people and the livelihoods of teachers and other staff — and regrettably it won’t be the last.”
We want to continue holding local authorities to account, attending court and council meetings, as well as providing breaking news, competitions and offers – but it costs money. Online advertising does not cover costs, therefore we feel the need to ask for your help in ensuring we can provide the best possible coverage, online and in our printed products.
For as little as £1, you can support the Rotherham Advertiser – and it only takes a minute.
Click here to support local news.