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From Keighley News, February 4th, 2019
Written by Alistair Shand

A MAKE-or-break meeting in London on Thursday (Feb 7) is set to decide the fate of a tiny school. A delegation from Oldfield Primary, which is fighting Government moves to impose academy status, will be in the capital to plead its case with Education Minister Lord Theodore Agnew. Keighley MP John Grogan has arranged the meeting, at the Department for Education, and will accompany the contingent. He said he was “hopeful” of a positive outcome.

“The representatives of the school will be able to put their case across direct to the man who will make the final decision,” said Mr Grogan.

“Lord Agnew has a long record of promoting the academy model for schools, but I am hoping that he will decide to judge the case on its merits.

“I’m hopeful then that a decision will be announced quickly.”

Oldfield Primary – which has fewer than 50 pupils – was slapped with an academy order by the Department for Education after a damning Ofsted report last year, in which it was rated ‘inadequate’ and placed in special measures.

But the school says massive improvements, begun even before the inspection team’s scathing document was published in September, have been made.

And there are concerns that ‘academising’ the school would be a retrograde step, which could even put the future of the 142-year-old building in jeopardy.

Bradford Council is backing the battle, and is appealing against the academy order.

Oldfield Primary was just two days away from formally becoming part of the Ingrow & Long Lee – or Footprints – Federation, when the Ofsted report was published. The move was frozen.

Despite the official link-up being scuppered, the federation has continued to help the school with staff, resources and expertise.

Pam Freeman, who is chairman of the governors at Oldfield as well as Ingrow and Long Lee, will be part of Thursday’s delegation.

She welcomes the chance to put the school’s case directly to Lord Agnew, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Education.

But she is critical of the time that has elapsed without a ruling.

“I’m grateful for the fact he is seeing us and I remain hopeful of a good outcome,” said Miss Freeman.

“What I don’t understand are the delays.

“The Ofsted inspection was last summer.

“We’ve now had eight months of uncertainty and are effectively stuck in limbo.

“A lot of hard work has been put in as a federation to turn things around at Oldfield.

“It is a vibrant school now and the children love it. Everybody is happy, including the local authority.

“But all this uncertainty is helping no one and means we are having to put things on hold. It’s so frustrating.

“The children are there for an education, yet we’re not able to plan for the future until we know what’s happening.

“The Government is playing with people’s lives.

“We need a decision, one way or the other, quickly so that we can move forward.”

The delegation will also include a parent governor and the executive headteacher, Angela Vinnicombe.

She said the Ingrow & Long Lee Federation had been supporting the school “intensively” since the end of September and as a result there had been “rapid improvement”.

She added: “After a term of positive change at Oldfield, it would be disappointing to dissolve this strong, established working partnership and start from scratch with another.

“Working as the executive head for the school has reinforced to me the importance of preserving the individual characteristics that make each school unique. "Oldfield is a small school with a big heart and a big future!”

Oldfield Primary is a member of the National Association of Small Schools.

Its chairman, Neil Short, has visited the school twice.

“Oldfield has worked together with partners over the year and developed ways of operating which have brought about significant improvement,” he said.

“I applaud the efforts made. It seems a shame that they may come to an end.”