Tory MP hits out at DfE over handling of failing academy

Craig Whittaker MP
Craig Whittaker MP
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A CONSERVATIVE MP has accused the Department for Education of behaving “intolerably” in ignoring the advice of a local council about an academy which has gone into special measures.

Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker raised the case of Hipperholme and Lightcliffe High School during a select committee hearing into academies and free schools.

The school, which was rated as inadequate by Ofsted in July, had been given approval to set up a vocational post 16 free school, the Maltings College, in Halifax, which opened last year.

In written evidence to the Education Select Committee Calderdale Council said it had raised concerns with the DfE about whether there was sufficient demand for the proposed free school and also about standards at Hipperholme and Lightcliffe High School.

Speaking at the committee Mr Whittaker said: “I personally feel the DfE has behaved intolerably with how they handled the whole situation. Not supported and definitely not listened. He added: “There has been some real concerns about this particular school, an academy, for years and yet the DfE seems to have totally ignored local knowledge and expertise particularly from the local authority. In particular when they were converting to the academy, when they were opening a free school and now when they are failing.”

Calderdale Council’s head of service for Learning, Children and Young People’s Services, David Whalley told MPs there were concerns about the DfE’s plan for the future of the school.

He said: “We have heard that the school because its a failing academy will be taken out of its current trust arrangements and placed with another successful trust. We’ve got an outstanding academy in Calderdale. We felt it was a no brainer that it would become part of that multi academy trust yet the DfE seem to have performed a U-turn on that.

“Whereas four weeks ago it was a great idea it now appears that school will go to an academy trust in Leeds with which clearly we have no contact with. It just feels the dialogue has not been listened to and the needs of those 1,500 children don’t seem to have been the highest on the agenda.”

Mr Whalley also said the DfE had repeatedly tried to remove the council from the trust board of another school, Trinity Academy in Halifax, and suggested this was down to “political dogma.”