MP John Hayes is backing Spalding’s South Holland Post 16 Centre and will fight in the interests of students who want to study there.
The South Holland and The Deepings MP met Sir John Gleed School headteacher Will Scott on Friday and received an “unequivocal” assurance the £3million centre that offers wide-ranging vocational courses remains at the heart of the school’s future plans.
The governing body at Gleed was axed in November by education trust CfBT, and replaced by a hand-picked Rapid Improvement Board, just days after an Ofsted monitoring report criticised CfBT, leaders and governors for not doing enough to remove the school from serious weaknesses.
Last week, CfBT chief executive Chris Tweedale revealed falling “indicative numbers” for the Post-16 Centre will present “different options”, including not having a Year 12 next year.
Former governor Chris Schofield spoke out following Mr Tweedale’s remarks, saying finance for the centre was driven by pupil numbers – and asked if part of the problem was “due to the under collection of substantial sums”, suggesting £200,000 may have gone uncollected.
Mr Hayes said: “In the light of recent events I was pleased that I had a meeting at the school at which I was able to ask the headteacher a number of key questions. Firstly I queried the removal of the governing body but understandably Mr Scott said that was a decision that was out of his hands and made by the trust.
Mr Scott was unequivocal in his assurances that the South Holland Post-16 Centre remains at the heart of the school’s future plans and that he’s determined to market it, to build up the numbers of people there and there are no plans for it to close.MP John Hayes
“Sadly the trust weren’t able to attend the meeting but I will be making urgent inquiries to find out exactly why the governors were removed, given that Ofsted reports suggested they were taking the right steps and making the right moves to deal with the school’s challenges.
“Secondly I asked the questions about the pupil premium (finances collected) and the head assured me all that could be claimed had been in mitigating disadvantage and, finally, I asked about the future of the 6th form, South Holland Post-16 Centre, and made clear that my determination was to fight in the interests of students and their families.
“Mr Scott was unequivocal in his assurances that the South Holland Post-16 Centre remains at the heart of the school’s future plans and that he’s determined to market it, to build up the numbers of people there and there are no plans for it to close.”
The MP says the Post-16 Centre offers a great range of options for prospective students.
He said: “I really hope people apply to study there.”
On Monday of this week, CfBT answered Mr Schofield’s criticisms regarding unclaimed finances, publicising falling numbers of applicants – which he says could become self-fulfilling with fewer students applying now – and on a lack of marketing of the centre.
Asked about under-collection of substantial sums – with a suggestion it could be £200,000, the trust says: “This is not correct – there was an error on the school census in a previous academic year that led to some under-funding.
“This has been rectified and will not impact on the current or future years’ funding.”
CfBT defended comments on an option not to have a Year 12 next year.
The statement says: “We were asked to respond to a direct question by the newspaper, and gave a direct response.
“Any post-16 provider does and would look at projected future (Year 12) numbers before agreeing which courses are viable to run the following academic year.
“This is the case for Sir John Gleed and at Christmas 2015, when numbers were looked at, we were disappointed at having only 47 applications.
“The previous story also quotes Mr Tweedale as saying ‘the indicative numbers for next year’s Year 12 are lower than in previous years and so, clearly, the governing body and the trust need to consider different options’.
“This is exactly what we are doing.
“Consulting on closing the 6th form is only one of many options. In the unlikely event of a case being made for closure following a consultation, it is the Secretary of State who would have the final say.”
Mr Schofield questioned whether prospective Year 12 students are being refused at this stage.
The trust said: “No. The school has held off from personal interviews until a decision is made.”
On marketing of the Post-16 Centre, CfBT sourced a comment from Will Scott, who said: “The school has advertised locally as it normally does – it is not a trust (CfBT) thing to do. We have advertised in the local paper, held open evenings, taster sessions for Year 11 students and contacted local schools with our Post-16 information.
“We held a careers fair last month where all Year 11 students visited to see what was on offer.”
This newspaper asked what CfBT was doing to improve the educational performance at Sir John Gleed School.
The trust replied: “CfBT has provided intensive support to improve the daily provision in classrooms.
“This is coordinated and focused, and HMI commented on the impact it is having in terms of students’ performance in its recent report.
“The new Rapid Improvement Board, whose specific remit is to drive improvement in teaching and learning, is holding the school leadership rigorously to account for the school’s educational performance.”
• CfBT predicts it will have 150 new pupils for the Year 7 cohort in September this year – the same as September 2015.