Row flares over efforts to save failing South Shields school

South Shields Community School
South Shields Community School

A political row has broken out over the future of a failing school in South Tyneside.

Green Party activists say South Tyneside Council should do more to prevent South Shields Community School being forced into becoming an academy.

Coun Doreen Purvis.

Coun Doreen Purvis.

Government rules say the school, in Nevinson Avenue, has been left no option but to look to convert to academy status after its latest Ofsted inspection report rated it as “inadequate”.

Green campaigner David Francis, said: “Yet again, we see Labour councillors not taking a strong enough line when it comes to Tory policy.”

But Coun Doreen Purvis, who represents the Whiteleas ward on South Tyneside Council, said: “I am opposed to academies, which is the policy of the Labour Party but I don’t really want to see the school closed, which would appear to be the only other alternative if it doesn’t become an academy.

“It’s quite easy for anyone who doesn’t have to make these decisions to stand on the sidelines and say these things.”

The Green Party - which opposes academies - say the Ofsted judgement will leave the school, and the education for over 500 pupils in limbo while the hunt goes on for a private sponsor.

If it does become an academy, the local authority influence over the school will be lost.

Mr Francis added: “When schools are preparing to become academies in this situation, there is no requirement to consult parents, staff, or anyone else.

“Once a school becomes an academy, they are incentivized to compete with neighbouring schools. Collaboration between schools is key to improving standards and sharing best practice. So why leave a failing school to fend for itself?

“As Greens, we support the dismantling of Ofsted, bringing all academies and free schools back into the local community with democratic accountability, decent funding and good support from properly financed local education authorities.

Coun Purvis added: “I am opposed to academies. The problem is that I’m also opposed to schools closing.

“I really want what is best for the children in my ward who go to that school.

“While I’m principally opposed to the idea of an academy, I don’t really want to see the school closed, which would appear to be the only other alternative if it doesn’t become an academy.

“Sometimes you are left with no alternative option if a school is failing and we are more or less told it is becoming an academy.

“It’s a really difficult position. It’s quite easy for anyone who doesn’t have to make these decisions to stand on the sidelines and say these things.

“If it was within our power locally to improve the school and prevent it from becoming an academy, we’d certainly like to do that.”