‘Poor Government planning left two Leeds academy schools in limbo’

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LEEDS council education bosses have been forced to step in and save two high school academies after claims that poor Government planning - and lack of consultation with local decision-makers - left them both in limbo.

As reported by the YEP earlier this year, Leeds West and East Academies were among 10 schools left without a sponsor after national chain E-ACT pulled out on the orders of the Department of Education amid concerns about its performance.

Now the White Rose Academies Trust - which was created by Leeds City College - has taken over the reins of both schools.

A report just signed off by the council confirms the handover, and stresses the authority was forced by circumstances to find a “local solution” after E-ACT was ordered to “divest” some of its portfolio.

“Working in conjunction with E-ACT, LCC sought a local solution to the problem and a proposal was submitted to the DfE whereby WRAT (White Rose Academies Trust) would take over the control and operation of both Academies” the report says.

Councillor Judith Blake, Leeds council’s chief cabinet spokeswoman for education, said the Government had no “back up plan’” for failing academies

“We were all devastated when we heard that E-ACT was pulling out without any notice to anyone,” Coun Blake told the YEP.

“We found out about it through a press release! The lack of consultation was a disappointment. We were astounded by the way it was handled [by the D of E].

“This is the first time in our experience that this has happened. There’s no blueprint for this under the legislation. There’s no process for what happens when academy sponsors fail, no alternative was put in place.

“We had talks with the school who spoke with the DofE.

“We were thrown into a situation that was not of our making and we wanted to make sure in a very difficult situation that we could support the children and the school as best as we could.”

She said the performances of the schools had also been unfairly put under the microscope.

“It appeared that the two schools were failing schools and that just isn’t the case - you just have to look at their results,” she said.

The YEP approached the Department of Education for comment but received no response.

However Tory councillor Alan Lamb, Leeds city council’s shadow spokesman for education, hit back saying councillor Blake was “in no position to attack the academies programme, given the fact that they were introduced by her Government”.

“In the case of the Leeds East and Leeds West Academies, the government identified that they were not performing adequately, and took action to ensure that situation was rectified,” he said.

“This situation might have been avoided if the council’s ruling administration stopped hiding behind their political dogma, and engaged with any and all providers of schools, be they academies or free schools, to ensure that the good quality school places Leeds needs are there for our young people.”

The YEP understands the council is now looking to reclaim the costs of its intervention work from the Government, although the amount - taking all costs into account - has not been finalised yet.

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