Plans for Leeds school to switch to new management

Delta Academies Trust CEO Paul Tarn (left) and David Gurney, CEO of the Cockburn Multi Academy Trust, pictured at South Leeds Academy, Leeds. Picture by Stephen Taylor.
Delta Academies Trust CEO Paul Tarn (left) and David Gurney, CEO of the Cockburn Multi Academy Trust, pictured at South Leeds Academy, Leeds. Picture by Stephen Taylor.
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A Yorkshire secondary school that was rated inadequate by Ofsted could switch sponsorship to a high-performing academy trust in a bid to drive up standards under new plans unveiled today.

The proposals would see the South Leeds Academy, in Belle Isle, which is currently part of Yorkshire’s biggest schools chain Delta Academies Trust (DAT), join Cockburn Multi-Academy Trust, based in nearby Beeston.

The move is part of an ambitious strategy to transform education in the region by adopting a more collaborative approach.

It is hoped that by swapping to a trust closer to the school, the academy will be strengthened by support from the community, as well as the trust itself, which includes Cockburn School.

It comes after South Leeds Academy was rated inadequate by Ofsted after it found pupils did not make enough progress.

However, the school was not placed in special measures and the report published in January noted that “swift action” was being taken by senior leaders to improve the quality of teaching and weaknesses were being urgently addressed.

Paul Tarn, CEO of DAT, said: “Delta is committed to a model of system leadership that will enable trust leaders to work collaboratively, supporting each other and strategically identifying where each of us can make a difference.

“Ofsted recently recognised the huge improvements at South Leeds, and we are confident that this summer’s results will reflect this. Staff and students at South Leeds are relentless in their determination to drive up standards and continue to transform the academy.

“We are now working closely with The Cockburn Multi-Academy Trust to look at the possibility of transferring The South Leeds Academy to their sponsorship. Cockburn, led by David Gurney, provides a high quality education for the children they serve. They enjoy the confidence of parents and the local community and are currently over-subscribed for the places they are able to offer.”

David Gurney, CEO of the Cockburn Multi-Academy Trust, said: “We would work carefully together to ensure that there is a smooth transition for all stakeholders.

“This would be an opportunity to work with the current students, parents or carers and staff at The South Leeds Academy and employ many of the successful strategies used at Cockburn School which has helped us to secure excellent outcomes for students.”

Academies move between sponsors for a variety of reasons, such as underperformance, geographical isolation and partnership consolidation.

Once work on the new proposal is complete, the Regional Schools Commissioner will make a final decision.

Praise from academies chief

The woman responsible for promoting and monitoring academies in West Yorkshire has praised the “refreshing approach” of two multi-academy trusts (MATs) working together in Leeds.

Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) Vicky Beer, CBE, said: “As an RSC, it is refreshing to see how MATs can work together and recognise their mutual strengths. Cockburn School serves an area of Leeds where they enjoy enormous parental support; currently there are two first choice applications for every place at Cockburn.

This solution could allow Cockburn to grow and Delta to support other schools in challenging circumstances.”

SAGA: Sofia Desaraju, then aged 4, joins a protest outside Leeds Civic Hall over school places blackhole. back in 2015. PIC: James Hardisty

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