Parents 'devastated' after government insists Wakefield primary school becomes academy

Parents have been left aghast after the government said it would press ahead with the academisation of a Wakefield primary school, despite overwhelming opposition to it.

Parents had petitioned against the academy order. Photo by Lee Ward.
Parents had petitioned against the academy order. Photo by Lee Ward.

Families and teachers wanted Mackie Hill Primary School in Crigglestone to be permanently merged with nearby Kettlethorpe High, after a temporary alliance between the two last year was hailed as a huge success.

That move had almost universal backing, with Wakefield Council, MP Mary Creagh and teaching unions also firmly behind the move.

But the Department of Education has instead decided that the primary will be taken over by New Collaborative Learning Trust, which runs sixth form colleges in Pontefract, Bradford and Doncaster.

The school had been taken over by Kettlethorpe High when it was rated 'Inadequate' by Ofsted.

It has no previous experience of running a primary school and is yet to speak publicly about its plans for Mackie Hill.

After a petition against the academy order, when it was first mooted in November, the controversial move appeared to have stalled last month when a final decision was delayed.

But now, the government has insisted that its proposals will now go ahead.

Dr Sarah Cox, who has a son in Year 2 at Mackie Hill said the news was "devastating" but vowed that the decision would still be fought against.

"It shows a lack of common sense, a lack of any acknowledgement of the progress made by the school and the plans already in place," she said.

"It’s insulting to all concerned and it will be challenged once more. Pontefract New College are - regardless of their performance in terms of secondary education - completely unsuitable in this instance, particularly compared with the partnership already in place and working."

Kettlethorpe High School took over the running of Mackie Hill at the beginning of 2018 on an initially temporary basis after the primary was rated inadequate by Ofsted.

Parents reported that the new leadership had transformed the school and backed council plans last summer to make the arrangement permanent, before the government's opposing idea was revealed.

Before Christmas, news that Ofsted would return to Mackie Hill to reinspect it this month offered hope that a good result would convince the government to backtrack.

However, the future of the school now appears to lie in the hands of the sixth form providers.

In a statement, the Department of Education said: "Lord Agnew (the minister responsible) has carefully considered the representations made and....has now made the decision that the New Collaborative Learning Trust will be the approved sponsor for Crigglestone Mackie Hill.

"The Minister and Regional Schools Commissioner believe that becoming an academy with the support of the New Collaborative Learning Trust will provide the school with the necessary sustainable support.

"This will help to drive up standards and provide ongoing security for school outcomes.

"Officials within the department will now work with the local authority, trust and school to convert the school into the trust.

"There will be further opportunity to engage with the department and the trust as part of the conversion."

Responding to the news in a video posted on Facebook Thursday, Mary Creagh said: "I think this is the wrong decision.

"It's a decision that's motivated by political and ideological needs rather than the educational and social needs of the children.

"I'll be visiting the school soon and I'll be fighting these plans every step of the way.

"I'm hopeful that if Ofsted is able to visit the school, reinspect it, and find that the leadership is good, we can still get the minister to rescind the academy order. It isn't over until it's over."