‘We feel unwanted’: an ‘orphan’ school at the sharp end of academisation

The Guardian reports that two years ago, Rose Hill primary on the outskirts of Oxford was branded a failing school. Ranked “inadequate” by the schools watchdog Ofsted, it was placed in special measures and staff and parents were told an academy trust would be brought in to turn around the school’s fortunes.

Two years on – and two education secretaries later – the school is still waiting.

Rose Hill, which serves a disadvantaged community far from Oxford’s dreaming spires, has become what is known as an “orphan” school. It is yet to be adopted by a sponsor. Though a local academy trust has shown an interest, a deal is yet to be secured. As the new education secretary, Damian Hinds, gets to grips with his brief, this small school is a reminder of the challenges the government’s academies programme faces.

Rose Hill is not alone. Estimates suggest there are around 60 orphan schools in England waiting to be taken over by a sponsor.

The government claims its academies policy – which takes schools out of local authority control and puts them in the hands of an academy trust, making them directly accountable to the Department for Education (DfE) – enables it to intervene swiftly when a school is in trouble. However, Rose Hill and others like it show this is not always a straightforward process.

Since the Guardian’s last visit, the local authority has spent £200,000 on patching up the roof and replacing some windows; the DfE has set aside £1.4m for a new sponsor to spend on further repairs. But headteacher, Sue Vermes thinks a total rebuild is needed, which would cost £9m. “This is not a building that says to the children and their families that their education is crucial. It’s just saying to them, you are not worth the investment,” she says.

The children’s centre based at the school has closed – like all Oxfordshire’s children’s centres – so problems are not being picked up at an early stage. Pupils who need to attend a special school cannot always find one because of a shortage of places, so Rose Hill keeps them on roll with additional support staff.

Last October, Ofsted returned to Rose Hill and found it much improved. The school was taken out of special measures and rated “requires improvement”, but in three categories was ranked “good”. Yet still the school is stranded without a sponsor.

Read the full article ‘We feel unwanted’: an ‘orphan’ school at the sharp end of academisation

Do you work at or with an ‘orphaned’ school? Do the staff and pupils feel unwanted and abandoned? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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  1. Sounds like Rose Hill seems to have had a lucky escape. Had it been taken over by an edu-business it’s more likely they would have looted the place and then walked away from their mess. As it is, the school has been supported by the local authority, the staff have been able to protect the children from the academy nightmare, and it is well on its way to satisfying Ofsted.

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