Applegarth School could become academy
APPLEGARTH School is to consult with parents about becoming New Addington's first academy.
If approved, the school would become a permanent member of the STEP Academy Trust.
The Striving Together for Excellence Partnership (STEP), which has provided a new head teacher and experienced staff, led Applegarth to move from special measures to a "good" rating within the space of six months.
It is thought parents will support the plan, but if the agreement comes to an end the school, in Bygrove, Fieldway, will lose head teacher Paul Glover and the support of the trust.
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Mark Ducker, executive head teacher of the STEP Academy Trust, does not believe this is a likely outcome.
He said: "Based on the feedback we have had, I think parents are genuinely pleased with how things are going.
"The governing body is consulting on the basis that it is the right way forward and have taken the view that being part of STEP is in the long-term interests of the children and the community."
STEP was set up by Mr Ducker and his school, Gonville Academy in Thornton Heath, in 2010.
It is based on his belief that the best schools have a moral obligation to help all pupils, not just their own.
The trust helped transform the fortunes of David Livingstone Primary School, which is now also an academy and a permanent member of STEP.
It started working with Applegarth Junior in January, after the school was put into special measures by Ofsted.
Six months later, the school was rated as "good" in its next full inspection.
In September, Applegarth Junior officially joined with its infant school to become an all-through primary.
Mr Ducker said the plan to become an academy is about continuing the school's upward trajectory.
He added: "The consultation is about whether this will become a permanent arrangement or whether we will go our separate ways.
"If it doesn't continue then the support that's already in place would have to be withdrawn and Applegarth would lose an incredibly talented head teacher and support staff."
Croydon has led the way on school partnerships – there are currently 17 in the borough, including STEP.
Tim Pollard, the council's cabinet member for children, young people and learners, hopes the link between STEP and Applegarth will continue.
He said: "I think the work they have done at the school in the last six months has really helped Applegarth come on in leaps and bounds.
"We want to see them continue in that direction of travel and being part of the STEP Academy Trust will achieve that."
The consultation period will begin on November 6 and last for six weeks.
The governing body will then reconvene to make the decision about whether to submit an academy application to the Department for Education.
It could become the estate's first academy, though Addington High is in the process of converting and could become one by February 2013.
Schools Commissioner Elizabeth Sidwell has accepted an invitation to visit Gonville Academy after head teacher Mark Ducker raised concerns about the school’s Ofsted result.
In July the school was downgraded from 'outstanding' to 'good' following its latest inspection.
Mr Ducker said the inspectorate had failed to take into account the work it had done to improve two other schools through the STEP Academy Trust.
For the past two years the academy, in Gonville Road, Thornton Heath, has helped transform the fortunes of David Livingstone Academy and then Applegarth Junior. Both are now rated as “good” by Ofsted.
The Advertiser revealed that Mr Ducker had written to Dr Sidwell and Education Secretary Michael Gove, describing Gonville’s result as a “kick in the teeth”.
Dr Sidwell acknowledged the “need for some form of recognition” of school partnerships, so the matter has been referred to Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector. Dr Sidwell has also accepted an invitation to visit the school, possibly in the Spring term.
Mr Ducker said: “It would be gratifying to think that Ofsted might one day have a more balanced view of partnerships.”