From Keighley News, February 21st, 2019
Written by Alistair Shand
A TINY school has lost its David-and-Goliath battle to stave off academy status. Oldfield Primary fought against a Government order to impose the move, fearing it could lead to the school's closure. But despite backing from Bradford Council and MP John Grogan, campaigners have failed in their bid to overturn the decision. The school will now become part of the Bronte Academy Trust. This week, trust bosses moved to reassure staff and parents at Oldfield that the future of the school – which has fewer than 50 pupils – is safe.
"We see no reason why the school cannot continue to function as it currently does – we have no intention of closing it, moving children or using the building for other purposes," said Gill Holland, the trust's chief executive officer.
"I know that the threat of closure has caused a great deal of stress for the community at the school and it is important to provide this reassurance.
"We are delighted to welcome Oldfield Primary into our family of schools.
"What is important now is to move forward and focus on the children and the development of the school."
She said letters had been sent to all staff, parents and governors on the last day of term.
And a parents' meeting is being held at the school on Wednesday, at 7pm, when people will have the chance to meet some of the Bronte team – whose existing schools are Lees, Oakworth and Haworth primaries – and ask questions.
Mrs Holland added: "We also plan to meet with staff on the first day back after the holidays and have an opportunity to get to know the children – other than that it will be business as usual at Oldfield!"
Oldfield Primary was slapped with the 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.
However the school said massive improvements, begun even before the inspection team’s scathing document was published in September, had been made and there were concerns that ‘academising’ it would be a retrograde step.
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.
A last-ditch plea was made to Education Minister Lord Theodore Agnew at a meeting in London earlier this month, but he ruled late last week against lifting the academy order.
Mr Grogan said he was disappointed with the decision.
"I feel that the minister – with a background of promoting academies – has made his decision on ideological rather than educational grounds," he added.
"He informed us at the meeting that the Bronte Academy Trust was the preferred academy to take over. The advantage is Bronte is a local organisation, although I fear there is a danger of them over-stretching themselves."
His disappointment is shared by Councillor Imran Khan, the council's portfolio holder for education, employment and skills.
He said: "It is particularly disappointing for parents, children, the local community and the teachers and staff who have worked so hard to improve the school.
"I sincerely hope that the decision, which goes against a public consultation, will not undermine the great strides that have been made. We will work closely with the school, the Department for Education and any other potential partners to ensure this does not happen."
Parent and governor, Emma Considine, says that while the ruling is not what the school community was hoping for, she is relieved there will now be some stability.
"We have not been able to plan because we didn't know what was going to happen," she said.
"At least we now know what the position is and whilst we still have concerns, we can work with the academy on planning for the future.
"One of our main worries was that the school would close, so it is a huge relief to be assured that will not be the case."