Failing school takeover plan sparks anger

Coun John Jones (below) said the decision to turn Highfield Humanities College into an academy was out of his hands
Coun John Jones (below) said the decision to turn Highfield Humanities College into an academy was out of his hands
  • Governors have announced Highfield Humanities College is to become an academy
  • The move means all of Blackpool’s secondary schools have now become, or will soon be, academies and are now outside the control of the local authority
  • A union hit out at the “lack of democracy” that means parents get no say in the decision to take over failing schools
  • Governors hope the move will help improve standards after Highfield was rated “inadequate” by Ofsted
  • Questions have been raised over the decision to bring in an Islam-based group to run Highfield, given the low number of Muslims living in the area - although it will not become a faith school
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A teaching union today hit out at plans to turn Blackpool’s last remaining secondary school under local authority control into an academy.

The decision to seek academy status was made by governors at Highfield Humanities College in a bid to improve standards in the wake of the school’s “inadequate” Ofsted rating.

I fail to see what an academy could do to make Highfield better that the local authority could not.

John Girdley, NASUWT

A representative for teaching union NASUWT blasted the “lack of democracy” after the Government introduced rules that mean parents get no say in plans to take over failing schools.

John Girdley, NASUWT national executive member, also questioned the decision to pick an Islam-based group to run a school in the resort, where 0.7 per cent of the population identifies as Muslim.

He said: “I fail utterly to see what academies have done for secondary schools in Blackpool. I fail to see what an academy could do to make Highfield better that the local authority could not.”

Not-for-profit organisation Tauheedul Education Trust (TET) was chosen to sponsor the new academy. While Highfield will be run as a non-faith school, TET already runs a number of Muslim faith-based schools in Blackburn, Preston and Bolton. According to the group’s website it has “roots in the Muslim faith”, although its list of board members explicitly includes several non-Muslim trustees.

Mr Girdley said the union has “good relations” with TET, which has received “outstanding” ratings at all its schools to have been inspected so far, and praised its work in other areas. But he described the decision to bring the group in to take over at Highfield, given the low number of Muslims living in the area, as an “extremely retrograde move”.

He added: “I don’t know what the motivation is or what the reaction of staff will be.

“I would imagine a number of parents in the Highfield area will be alarmed at having a religious group suddenly imposed upon them.”

School governors said they were given a list by the Regional Schools Commissioner, through the government, of possible sponsors to choose from.

Alan Fisher, chairman of governors, said: “Given their superb track record of educational achievement, TET were the clear and outstanding choice.

“They run a growing network of primary and secondary schools, both faith schools and non-faith schools, and it is clear that educational excellence is at the heart of everything they do.”

He said the target now is to turn Highfield into an “outstanding” school.

Chief Executive of TET Hamid Patel CBE said: “We are delighted to have been confirmed as the preferred sponsor for Highfield.

“We will be inviting parents to meet us in the coming weeks to hear more about these exciting developments and help us to shape the bright future ahead for Highfield.”

Academy status means school will be funded directly by the Government run independently, outside the control of Blackpool Council, which has previously raised concerns over academies.

Coun John Jones, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for school improvement, said: “We need to work closely with academy sponsors to drive school improvement directly and through The Blackpool Challenge Board and that is what we will do.”

He said The Blackpool Challenge Board, which works with schools to help improve standards, was one of several council initiatives to “radically re-shape life for young people in the resort”.