Leeds academy head warns the programme’s focus on helping deprived areas has been lost

Ros McMullen.
Ros McMullen.
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THE PRINCIPAL OF one of Yorkshire’s first academies has warned that the programme is no longer about tackling disadvantage and promoting social justice.

Ros McMullen helped to launch the David Young Community Academy in the Seacroft area of Leeds in 2006.

It was one of four new “city academies” to open in Yorkshire that year which were all based in new builds and replaced existing state schools. David Young Community Academy replaced Braim Wood Boys’ School in Oakwood and Agnes Stewart CoE High in Burmantofts.

The city academies model under Labour saw new schools created in areas where state schools had struggled. Ms McMullen joined David Young after turning around the fortunes of Kingsdown High School, in Wigan. She said: “The original academies programme was about social justice. It was about bringing in new leadership into the areas which needed it most and giving them the freedom to make a difference.”

Since then the academies programme had been rolled out. Towards the end of Labour’s last term existing state schools became academies and the coalition Government has massively expanded the numbers. Ms McMullen says the loss of focus on supporting disadvantaged communities had been “appalling”.

She said that the expansion of the programme was now about reducing the power of local councils. “I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing but it is a shame that the focus on serving the most needy has been lost.”

And she warned that in some cases the creation of large academy chains had simply recreated bodies which were like local education authorities but without the local knowledge.

She added: “I am also critical in some cases of the choice of sponsor. Why would schools which have a track record of doing well in affluent areas but no record of turning around schools in disadvantaged areas be able or expected to succeed in running schools in these deprived communities?”