Oops there goes …

Earlier this year I reported on the summary closure of a state funded school. In that case it was an academy in Kent. That event followed closely the demise of an academy chain, but not the closure of its schools. Now we learn of the summary closure of another state funded school; The Black County UTC.

Following a second Ofsted inspection the school has decided to close at the end of this term.

Here’s the message on their web site;

Planned closure of Black Country University Technical College

The Governors of the Black Country University Technical College (BCUTC) based in Bloxwich, Walsall, regret to announce that it will close on August 31 2015.

The wellbeing and success of the students at the school is the priority for the Governors and sponsors and full support and guidance is being given to them all, in particular those undertaking exams this term.
This outcome has been reached following a recent disappointing inspection, a thorough assessment of actual and projected student numbers, financial challenges, staffing capacity and the impact these will have on standards of teaching and learning.

“This has been a difficult decision for all concerned. Our primary focus remains the wellbeing and success of the students at the school, not least of all those due to sit exams this term. We are absolutely committed to ensuring that all of our students can continue with their chosen learning outcomes.

“Support and guidance is being provided to students and their parents and carers both internally and through our local partners including the Walsall Connexions Centre, Walsall Council and our neighbouring authorities of Sandwell, Dudley, Wolverhampton and South Staffordshire, and our sponsors at Walsall College and the University of Wolverhampton.

“BCUTC will work closely with the Department for Education, Walsall College and other local education institutions over the coming months to ensure a smooth transition for all students.”

Now it was always the case that private schools could summarily close, in bad times some did the day after the end of the summer term, but state funded schools had to go through a process of consultation and approval. Indeed, a school in Oxfordshire having gained approval for a sixth form is now going through the consultation process to revert to its former 11-16 status because it believes a sixth form won’t be economically viable. Had it been an academy it could seemingly just have closed that part of the school down.

As I reported in an earlier post, there are some UTCs and studio schools that appear to be struggling. Whether closing them down is the answer is a moot point, but it does beg the question of who is really in charge of the education system in England. Presumably, since the Prime Minister was prepared to extol the virtues of UTCs in parliament last week, his Education Secretary hadn’t told him of the impending closure in Walsall. With so many UTCs and studio school heading the table of schools with high absence rates something needs to done; and quickly. Rules about closure also need to be made clear to academies, free schools and others in receipt of public money.

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4 thoughts on “Oops there goes …

  1. I asked whether UTCs were an expensive white elephant in April. Two are already closing: Black Country UTC and Hackney UTC, Schools Week found 17 of the already-opened UTCs were struggling to reach 30% capacity. Even JCB Academy, the first one to be opened in 2010 has only filled 433 of its 728 places. http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2015/04/as-a-second-utc-announces-closure-are-utcs-expensive-white-elephants/

    On the wider point of academies being able to close without consultation, West Grantham Academies Trust (WGAT) announced in early 2013 the arbitrary closure of a village academy. It was only saved because a new sponsor was willing to take it over.

    This is one of the many downsides to academisation. If a chain wants to dump an academy, it can do so. Or if the chain decides it wants to close, as Prospects Academy Trust has done, then this leave academies scurrying to find another sponsor.

    There’s a cost to the taxpayer every time an academy changes hands. 23 changed hands between Sept 2012 and October 2013. And the DfE has refused by FoI request to reveal how much this has cost.

    • The excuse was that the info was commercially sensitive. However, I’ve asked the Information Commission to investigate on the grounds that such info is in the public interest as taxpayers have a right to know how much money is spent on academies changing hands. Haven’t heard yet but will publish the result on the Local Schools Network.

      A parliamentary question would certainly raise interest in this topic – such payments are bound to increase as more academies move to different chains.

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