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Trust to take over special school

By Mark Cardwell | Birmingham | Education | Published:

An academy trust hopes to turn a special school around after it was rated inadequate by Ofsted and ordered to become an academy.

Google Street View image of Queensbury School in Wood End Road, Erdington. Credit: Google

Queensbury School, currently a community special school maintained by Birmingham City Council, is due to come under the control of the Birmingham-based Education Impact Academy Trust (EIAT).

The school provides secondary education for 250 students with special educational needs such as learning difficulties, autism, and social, emotional and mental health needs.

The Department for Education (DfE) issued an academy order after the school was rated inadequate by Ofsted in March, 2018, and the EIAT has since been “supporting” the school.

As an academy, the school will receive funding directly from the Government but will not have to follow the national curriculum and can set its own term times.

The EIAT already runs Wilson Stuart School, an academy in Erdington for children with physical disabilities and complex medical needs.

It is also supporting Mayfield School, a large special school based over two sites in Handsworth and Lozells, towards becoming an academy.

Officers have recommended the city council’s cabinet approve the business case for maintenance works at Queensbury School, such as asbestos removal, totalling £2 million at an online meeting on May 26.

Other works to be funded by the council include replacing eight temporary classrooms.

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Further works totalling £1.2 million have been identified, which will be covered by either the DfE or the EIAT.

The city council will also have to fund the school’s deficit, currently calculated at £58,068 at the scheduled point of conversion on July 1.

The EIAT has stated this date may be delayed due to the coronavirus crisis.

Officers have recommended the cabinet grants a lease to the EIAT for the school for 125 years.

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The EIAT has requested “an indemnity relating to Equal Pay Claims” – where a female staff member can claim equal pay as a male employee for work which is broadly similar, equivalent or of equal value.

This has been written into the commercial transfer agreement (CTA) between the city council and the EIAT, which the cabinet is recommended to authorise at the meeting.

A report written by Dr Tim O’Neill, the council’s director of education and skills, said: “A directive academy order was granted in May 2018 following an Ofsted inspection in March 2018, which rated the school inadequate.

“Education Impact Academy Trust was identified as the sponsor and has been supporting the school since then to provide stability to the leadership in the school and address concerns raised by Ofsted.

“As a result, there is now a greater level of stability in staffing and school finances as well as a welcoming environment which has resulted in much improved teaching and learning for the pupils.”

Steve Hughes, executive head teacher of Wilson Stuart School and CEO of the EIAT said: “The local authority, Department for Education and Education Impact Academy Trust are working hard to progress the conversion of Queensbury School, but progress towards this has been impacted by the current Covid-19 situation.

“All parties are continuing to work towards the conversion at the earliest possible date.

“Education Impact have been effective in supporting Queensbury and the school has made great progress to date.

“Headteacher Chris Wilson, with fantastic support from the Queensbury staff, has already achieved massive improvements.

“We would expect this to continue post conversion and there is determination and a firm belief from all involved that Queensbury will be an outstanding school within a very short time.”

A total of 185 schools in Birmingham are academies according to Gov.uk, while 238 are maintained by the council.

Kate Taylor, a teacher and campaigner with the Love Brum Schools group which states schools are better off staying under the control of the local authority, said: “In my understanding, there is very little that can be achieved in an academy that can’t be achieved in a collaboration of any other kind.

“There is no evidence to suggest academies are better for children or the communities they serve.

“The benefits often talked about can be delivered outside of academisation. It’s a permanent change to the school structure.

“The school can never go back to the local authority. It’s a huge step for them to make, for something that will potentially have no value or benefit to the children and community.”

An independent report published earlier this year stated the city has a shortage of provision for children with special educational needs and disability (SEND).

The cabinet meeting will be held at 10am on May 26 and can be viewed via the council’s website at: http://civico.net/birmingham

Mark Cardwell

By Mark Cardwell
Reporter - @mlrcardwell

Local Democracy Reporter covering Birmingham.

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