Radio Sandwell Local News

New Perry Beeches Academy 'a threat to other schools in Small Heath'

2015-05-15 20:10:18

Small Heath SchoolSmall Heath School

Teachers at a crisis-hit Birmingham school fear its future could be in jeopardy when a rival opens its doors nearby - potentially draining it of its pupils.

Staff at Small Heath School took to the picket lines earlier this week to strike over fears it could be turned into an academy.

Staff at Small Heath School took to the picket lines earlier this week to strike over fears it could be turned into an academy.

Now teaching union chiefs revealed they also worried about the impact the new Perry Beeches V (PBV) will have on its pupil numbers when it opens its doors in September.

Set to open in nearby Talbot Way, it is the latest in chain of successful Perry Beeches free schools, and comes after the previously “outstanding” Small Heath School was plunged into special measures by Ofsted in January - just months after it was given a clean bill of health during the Trojan Horse scandal.

Ash Ghouse, ATL’s Birmingham branch secretary, said: “It (PBV) is a worry.

“When parents see the upheaval at Small Heath School, if they are concerned about their child’s future education they may think with a new school opening they may be tempted to move them, which will take away the wonderful students in its catchment area.

“That in itself could have really big repercussions on the school.”

It comes as Birmingham City Council, which has lobbied the Government in a failed bid to stop the Department for Education-funded school, also has concerns over the impact PBV will have on a number of schools in the area.

It fears it would jeopardise the future of nearby Cockshut Hill College in Yardley - which was plunged into special measures in December 2013 - as parents opt to send their children to PBV instead on the back of its “outstanding” reputation.

It fears it would jeopardise the future of nearby Cockshut Hill College in Yardley - which was plunged into special measures in December 2013 - as parents opt to send their children to PBV instead on the back of its “outstanding” reputation.

Cockshut Hill was rebuilt 15 years ago under a £9.1 million private finance initiative - effectively a loan, which the council has to continue to pay-off until 2030, at a staggering repayment rate of £1.7million a year.

And the news of PBV’s imminent opening has already taken its toll, with the academy trust parachuted in to help turn Cockshut Hill around now revealing it will pull out of the school in August.

Ninestiles Academy Trust has confirmed it has also ended its long-term plans to turn the school into an academy and will no longer become its sponsor.

Coun Brigid Jones, the council’s cabinet member for children’s services, said: “We had an improving partner, Ninestiles, to turn Cockshut Hill around, but they have given us notice that they intend to pull out because they realise if the school [PBV} opens it will drain children out of the school and put in jeopardy the financial future of the school.”

She urged Liam Nolan, head of the Perry Beeches chain, to ditch his plans for PBV and instead turn Cockshut Hill into a Perry Beeches academy.

But he rejected the offer, telling the Birmingham Mail he was still reeling after the council had previously rejected his offer to help turn around the former failing Baverstock School and Castle Vale Performing Arts College.

However, he did admit he was in talks with DfE chiefs over taking over another failing Birmingham school. He would not reveal which school it is, but it is understood it is not a school in east Birmingham.

“When the council refused to give us failing schools two or three years ago we went ahead with our own plans for new free schools,” he said. “And we only chose the site in Small Heath for PBV as the council told us that is where there was a shortage of school places - we didn’t pluck it from thin air.

“I am offered schools to help turn around almost weekly but we are not about building an empire.

“I can’t accept them all and I will only work with the ones I know in my heart I can change to become outstanding education providers - otherwise it is not fair on the kids or their families.”

Meanwhile, a joint statement on Cockshut Hill’s website revealed that the school’s acting executive principal Sian Hartle will step down in August, while its chair of governors Carol Squires will no longer lead on school improvement.

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