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Isle of Wight Council calls for Trust to hand back schools and leave

Photo: ITV Meridian

It has been 7 years since the government started to rapidly expand its Academy Programme and since then the question of who is running our schools has proved highly controversial.

Earlier this week we highlighted how a loss of confidence in the country's largest multi-academy trust was among the findings in a damning Ofsted report for a school on the Isle of Wight.

The island council is calling for the Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) to hand back its schools there and leave all together.

AET say their over-riding concern is to ensure students have access to a really good education.

As our Social Affairs Correspondent, Christine Alsford reports.

Christine spoke to Louisa Thompson and George Metcalf, both parents of children at Weston Academy.

She also spoke to Cllr Paul Brading and Cllr Chris Quirk, both former school governors at Sandown Bay Academy.

Christine also spoke to Emma Knights, the Chief Executive of the National Governance Association.

AET's response

On the decision to close Weston Academy

"The drive to close the school came from the Isle of Wight Local Authority, but was supported eventually by AET, based on the LA’s concerns about the low number of students attending the school, which were projected to fall further, and the consideration that there were other places available close by. The decision was taken by Ministers following the local consultation process."

AET statement on proposed changes merging Sandown and Ryde Academies

"We fully recognise the strength of local feeling around changes to any school, which is such an important part of the local community. However, it is the educational needs of the students which must always come first; and given the scale of the challenges facing Sandown Bay, which are projected to continue into the future, we believe it is very difficult for the school to meet those educational needs."

Sandown Bay Academy Credit: ITV Meridian

On changing the way the Sandown Bay is governed

"Achieving strong governance at the school, with a governing body able to support the school while also holding it to account, has been one of the challenges at Sandown Bay which AET has tried repeatedly to address."

"Strong leadership and governance are a very important factor in driving educational improvements, and will continue to be essential for the school in the coming period, whatever the outcome of the current consultations and Ministers’ decisions."

"It is for this reason that AET has reverted to a Management Board, which has already met, and is taking an active and effective role in the school, including putting in place strong leadership arrangements going forward. The Management Board will meet again before the end of term."

On taking account of parental views now all parent governors are sacked or resigned

"AET has been reviewing our governance arrangements in the light of advice from the Minister, Lord Nash, regarding the professional experience and skills required to hold schools to account. The steps we have been taking at Sandown Bay are aligned with this advice. However, we recognise that a critical component of good academy governance is the representation and contribution from other stakeholders in the academy, notably staff, parents and the wider local community."

"For this reason, as we review our wider governance model, we are seeking to ensure there are robust arrangements to provide for this."