Green light for new city academy

ONE of Yorkshire's worst performing schools is to be transformed into an academy from next week, after the government formally gave the go-ahead

The former South Leeds High School will be replaced by the new 11-19 academy in existing buildings on the current school site, and will open its doors for the first time on Monday.

South Leeds, in Beeston, has gone through difficult times since it opened in 2004. It formed by the merger of two of Leeds most challenging schools – Merlyn Rees in Belle Isle and Matthew Murray in Holbeck.

Initially, all pupils continued to be taught in the buildings of the former schools, where riot police were called on several occasions. Students and staff moved into a new building in 2006.

The academy will offer 'learning by doing,' as well as more traditional academic learning, with new courses linked to employers' needs to provide a range of skills needed in the workplace.

Off-site centres will deliver courses in areas such as construction, hairdressing and beauty.

It will also have a special focus on English to ensure that all children and young people at the academy have the best possible skills in written and spoken English.

Colin Bell, who was the head at South Leeds High School, will be the new principal of The South Leeds Academy.

Mr Bell said: "This is an exciting development for south Leeds. It is a chance to innovate, to introduce new practices and provide a genuine opportunity to improve the learning and experiences of the area's young people.

"The academy will provide a unique opportunity to those young people who attend – providing a tailored learning experience to ensure they have the best possible start to their adult life."

South Leeds has had a troubled past but before to its closure education watchdog, Ofsted, found it had raised pupils' achievements and attendance.

The funding agreement to support The South Leeds Academy, sponsored by the Leeds-based School Partnership Trust, an educational and social charity, was signed by the sponsors and the Department for Children, Schools and Families at the end of last week.

Ian Garforth, chair of the School Partnership Trust, said: "We will provide a wide range of options tailored for each individual learner, supported by the very best levels of pastoral care for young people."

Coun Richard Harker, executive board member for learning at Leeds City Council, said: "We are confident that the School Partnership Trust will ensure The South Leeds Academy becomes a successful school.

"This is an exciting time for learning in this part of the city. The academy will provide every young person with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the 21st century and will play a key role in the next chapter of the city's success."

Chris Edwards, chief executive of Education Leeds, said: "The new academy will continue to build on what has been achieved at South Leeds High School under Colin Bell's powerful leadership."

The academy and the School Partnership Trust have absorbed many of the school staff into the new staffing structure, together with a number of new appointments.

A shadow governing body is already in place and will expand to include representatives from parents, staff and the local community.

An open day to celebrate the new academy will take place on Saturday, September 26.

The event will include a number of new activities for children and families as well as the opportunity to see what the academy has to offer the local community.