£31k-a-year fees but no confirmed premises for new private school

A new independent school looking to charge pupils up to £31,500 a year in tuition could be housed in a city centre office block, it has been revealed.

The proposed site of the new school - image courtesy of Google Earth
The proposed site of the new school - image courtesy of Google Earth

And the school left Ofsted inspectors perplexed during an inspection this month after the proposed address was changed just 30 minutes before the inspection was due to begin.

Birmingham International Academy in Erdington has been criticised by Ofsted for not meeting required standards ahead of its proposed opening, with fees expected to range from £16,500 to £31,500 per year.

A range of issues were highlighted during an inspection in July, including concerns over the school’s prospectus.

However it is the fact that the school does not yet have a confirmed premises that seems to have caused the most concern, with inspectors noting: “There are no agreed premises for the school.

“An office block in central Birmingham has been identified as the location for the proposed school. Parts of the building are in the process of being renovated.

“However, it is not clear where the school will be situated within the building. Initially, the school was to be located on the fourth floor of this building. While this was being renovated, the proprietor proposed to use the third floor. However, half an hour before the inspection site visit an alternative space was identified. The proprietor suggested that this was a more appropriate space to house the school, as it could have its own entrance.

“While showing the inspector round, the proprietor made suggestions on how the room could be divided to create classrooms, a space for the short-term care of sick pupils and toilet facilities for pupils’ sole use. This has not been thought through carefully enough, and the proposed number of pupils and their specific needs have not been given due consideration.

“No lease agreement is in place with the owners of the building for a space to house the school. There is a lack of clarity and coherence in leaders’ planning for the school premises.

“The space is currently one large room with bare breeze block and brick walls. It has a concrete floor.

“No specific plans are in place to ensure that the acoustic conditions and sound insulation are suitable for educational activities.”

During the inspection, Ofsted did praise the “clear intentions and comprehensive vision for the school”, adding that the founder “wants to make a positive difference to pupils’ lives and raise their aspirations for future learning and employment”.

However they also raised a number of concerns about the running of the school, including the fact that certain policies had clearly been taken from other schools.

“There is a lack of cohesion and coherence between the plans and schemes of work,” the inspection notes.

“Many have simply been taken from other schools and are not relevant to the proposed school.

“For example, the history scheme plans for a local history study to be based on Gressenhall in Norfolk. Similarly, the geography scheme includes a study of a local nature reserve in Knettishall Heath, Suffolk. The proposed school is to be situated in central Birmingham.

“Other schemes include references to out-of-date exam and accreditation schemes. For example, in science, accreditation is planned over a two-year period beginning in 2016. The physical education (PE) scheme suggests that teachers can help pupils prepare for accreditation in 2015–16.

“The local offer document is not bespoke to this school. It talks about working with Staffordshire Police and the Acorn Directors taking decisions in this respect. The school is situated in Birmingham, and there are no directors.

“The document mentions pupils being housed in the ‘Coach House’ and fire assembly points being on the top lawn and playing area. There is no ground floor ‘Coach House’ connected to the school, and the proposed location does not have a lawn or playing areas.”

The school is yet to hire any teachers and does not yet know how many pupils it would be providing for, the inspection goes on to state, while also noting how there is no provision of an outside space, with suggestions from the founder that a local park be used for breaks instead.

The final inspection report noted: “The school is unlikely to meet all the independent school standards when it opens.”

Birmingham International Academy has been contacted for comment.

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