Special school set for academy status

ACADEMY BID ... Park View School and, inset, Coun Joan Atkinson.
ACADEMY BID ... Park View School and, inset, Coun Joan Atkinson.

A SOUTH Tyneside school is set to apply for academy status as it faces a huge budget cut.

Park View School, in Temple Park Road, South Shields, could become the first special school in the borough to opt out of local authority control.

Coun Joan Atkinson

Coun Joan Atkinson

The school, which caters for 38 pupils, aged 11 to 16, with behavioural, social and emotional difficulties, was placed in special measures by Ofsted inspectors in February last year.

Government policy dictates that failing schools should be converted into academies in a bid to raise standards, and parents are to be consulted over the plans.

Ofsted says the school is making good progress, but also confirmed it is set to become an academy. Inspector Eric Craven said: “The governing body has taken the decision to move toward academy school status.

“If approved, they will be sponsored by South Tyneside College of Further education and have the Epinay Business and Enterprise School as its partner.

“The governing body is to consult with parents on these proposals imminently.”

Mr Craven said the school is facing a “sustantial reduction” of about a third of its budget because of changes to the formula for funding special schools.

If the plans are given the go-ahead, Park View will become the first special school in the borough to become an academy. It will follow in the footsteps of Whitburn C of E Academy, Monkton Juniors in Jarrow and Ridgeway Primary in South Shields.

St Joseph’s RC Comprehensive in Hebburn is going through the conversion process.

Coun Joan Atkinson, South Tyneside Council’s lead member for children, young people and family, said: “We are delighted with the progress being made by Park View School which is thriving in its new building, provided under the Building Schools for the Future scheme.

“It is without doubt a dramatically improved learning experience for the children, and we are very hopeful it will come out of special measures very soon as a good school, before it converts to academy 

“The school is required to convert to academy status because it is now government policy for schools that have gone into special measures to become academies.

Although we don’t see it as necessary, we are working within the constraints of government policy to help it find a good local solution.”

Special schools which are performing well, or are working with schools that are performing well, are able to apply for academy status.

According to the Department for Education (DfE), special academies will have greater autonomy in order to teach, provide services and spend money, based on what they think will enable pupils to achieve and fulfill their potential.

As well as being granted freedom from local authority control, special academies are able to set their own pay and conditions for staff, choose how the curriculum should be delivered and decide the length and terms of school days.

A DfE spokesman said: “Academies constitute a framework of freedoms within which school leaders and teachers can shape their own vision for their school, their pupils and the wider community they serve.”

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PARK View School was known as The Galsworthy School when it was placed in special measures in February last year.

As well as changing its name, the school has moved into a new, purpose-built building, where it shares some of the facilities with the local authority’s pupil referral unit.

Ofsted carried out its latest monitoring inspection last month.

Inspector Eric Craven said: “The progress pupils are making continues to improve for a number of reasons.

“Firstly, their relationships with staff are positive and pupils like coming to school. They are proud of their new building and its facilities. This is reflected, for example, in the universal wearing of the new school uniform.

“They are attending more. Teachers are also building on their skills in making lessons appropriate and interesting.”

Pupils at risk of becoming disengaged are identified, he added, and marking and feedback given to pupils has improved.

Pupils’ behaviour continues to improve, with the number of fixed-term exclusions remaining low, and parents have described contact with children’s mentors as “helpful and informative”.

The quality of leadership and management was also praised, along with the support the school receives from the local authority.

Mr Craven added: “The headteacher and governors are facing a very significant challenge in preparing to manage a much-reduced budget from April 2013.

“Staff morale is upbeat despite the prospect of changes.”