South Yorkshire parents want answers over academy sponsor pulling out

Alan Yellup, chief executive of the new trust taking over at Brookfield.

Alan Yellup, chief executive of the new trust taking over at Brookfield.

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PARENTS of pupils at a South Yorkshire primary are demanding answers over the sudden withdrawal of the academy’s sponsor after its executive head and head of school left after just over a week’s notice.

Sandhill Multi-Academy Trust wrote to parents of Brookfield Primary Academy, in Swinton, on Thursday May 14 to inform them about the departures which took place the following week.

The letter said it had decided to withdraw from Brookfield following talks with the Department for Education and the regional schools commissioner - a new role created to provide local decision making over academies.

It told parents Wakefield City Academies Trust were taking over and a meeting would take place with the new management to allow parents to ask questions.

However it did not say why Sandhill was withdrawing.

The letter from the school’s executive head teacher Richard Chapman said that both he and the head of school Kerry Moss would be leaving on Friday of the following week ( May 22).

Sandhill runs two other primaries: Sandhill and Monkwood, which are both in Rawmarsh.

When asked why it was withdrawing from Brookfield the trust referred The Yorkshire Post to the regional schools commissioner. Decisions for academies in South Yorkshire are made by the commissioner for the East Midlands and Humber Jenny Bexon-Smith. A Department for Education spokesman said: “Sandhill Multi-Academy Trust has recently decided they will no longer sponsor Brookfield Primary Academy. We have chosen Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) as our preferred choice to take over. They are a successful sponsor with a track record of driving up standards.” The DfE said it was working closely with Sandhill and the school leadership to ensure pupils’ learning was not affected by the handover.

WCAT chief executive Alan Yellup said the trust had been approached by the regional schools commissioner about taking over. He said the trust was aware Brookfield faced a number of challenges but said WCAT had a track record for producing “speedy and sustained improvement at schools.” He added: “We have appointed outstanding, experienced senior leaders who will look after the interests of the children in an interim period while a consultation with the local community is undertaken.” Hedd Williams, who is currently working for WCAT at Havercroft Academy will be Brookfield’s associate head. He will be supported by executive head Rachel McEvoy and a neighbouring WCAT primary head teacher, Michael Walker of Montagu Academy, Doncaster.

Brookfield becomes WCAT’s 13th academy. Mr Yellup said: “The trust’s academies are focused on a small geographical area. It enables us to deliver powerful school-to-school support and professional development in the areas key to raising achievement. We have met with parents and told them we are committed to encouraging a culture of openness, building their confidence in us to deliver the best education possible for their children.”

One parent who attended the meeting on Thursday night said: “The question people wanted to ask was: ‘Why is this happening?’ but WCAT were there to talk about their plans for the future.”

*The Yorkshire Post revealed earlier this month that the administering of Sats tests at Brookfield was being overseen by the Government’s Standards and Testing Agency (STA). The STA investigated Sats tests at Brookfield last year but did not find evidence of maladministration.

Sandhill said earlier this month that the allegations which led to the investigation at Brookfield last year had been unfounded and that it had asked STA to come in this year.

The STA said it was sending officials to Sandhill trust’s schools because “the trust had challenges to overcome in terms of the administration of Sats.”

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