West Yorkshire: Arson-hit schools in new academy move

Airedale High School on fire.....tues 17th jan 2005
Airedale High School on fire.....tues 17th jan 2005
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TWO high schools hit by devastating arson attacks are set for a fresh start by making the move to become academies.

Wakefield Council’s cabinet will next week discuss moves by Airedale High School and Castleford High School to convert to academies after approval was given by the Secretary of State.

That will mean both schools, while still publicly funded, will be independent and governed by an academy trust which will employ teachers and support staff.

Assets and equipment as well as any budget surplus also transfer from the council to the new trust and senior councillors will next week agree to start negotiating that transfer.

The shift to academy status will cap a dramatic last few years for the two schools, which have both clawed their way back from severe arson attacks.

A huge blaze caused £3m worth of damage to Airedale High School on January 17, 2006, ripping through the school’s upper main hall, a drama studio and a special needs suite of three classrooms, an IT room, 25 computers and offices. And in January 2007 fire tore though Castleford High School’s sports hall causing an estimated £1.5m damage.

Last year the Secretary of State for Education wrote to heads of all schools deemed “outstanding” in Ofsted inspections – which included Airedale and Castleford.

Both schools have just over 1,200 pupils each. A report to the cabinet says meetings with staff and govenors have been held and consultation has taken place with teachers and parents.

It adds: “The conversion of [the schools] from a maintained community school to an academy involves the lease of land and buildings from the council to the academy trust, the transfer of assets, equipment and contracts from the council and the transfer of budget surplus, staff, pensions for teaching staff and support staff from Wakefield Council to the academy trust.

“On the conversion date of April 1, the schools will become independent schools and shall cease to be a maintained community school and as a result will no longer be under the control of the council in its capacity as local authority.”

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