Despite protests from parents and staff wishing to keep their school locally run, an academy trust has been found to take over Moulsecoomb Primary School. The campaign has already seen University of Brighton Academies Trust and STEP Academy Trust withdrawing from the process.
Lancing based New Horizons Academy Trust (NHAT) has just one school and is seeking to expand. The Regional Schools Commissioner has decided that NHAT can take over Moulsecoomb Primary. However, campaigners have discovered that until January 2018, the trust had run 2 primary schools until one (The Laurels Primary School) was left seriously struggling and was “re-brokered” to different trust.
Parent campaigner, Ulrike Hofmann, said:
“We are shocked to find out that the academy trust that has been chosen to take over our school has a track record like this and will be given the responsibility of looking after our children’s education.
“I can’t believe that Mark Ducker’s (CEO of STEP Academies Trust) name has re-appeared as a former NHAT trustee. He is also a member of the shady Regional Schools Commissioner’s headteacher board that decides the future of schools.
“Parents are extremely concerned and worried about decisions that are being made behind the scenes without any consultation of the community. I know several parents that have already stated they will take their children out of the school if this goes ahead.
Our campaign group will be asking the trustees and members of NHAT to meet us urgently to discuss our concerns. More than ever we are determined to stop the privatisation of our community school.”
Trust lost one of two schools
In June 2017, The Laurels Primary School was found to be struggling and another trust (DMAT) was brought in to provide support. At the time the Headteacher and more than half of the teaching staff were leaving and needed replacing before the start of the Autumn term. Halfway through the school year (January 2018) the school and the nursery attached to it transferred to DMAT.
After taking over the school from NHAT, the new trust found that “standards [at The Laurels] were poor”, financial information had been withheld from the Local Governing Body from February 2017 until January 2018 and that “the budget was out of control”. This information is available in DMAT trust accounts.
Before Laurels Primary was converted to an academy, three successive Ofsted inspections rated it as “Good”. Since becoming an academy, standards have slipped and in February 2019 the school was rated as “Requires Improvement” with the Ofsted report noting that “the school has been through a difficult time in recent years.”
In addition to this, the nursery that was attached to the school “had not been setup with a sound business plan, was overstaffed and had significant spaces”. The nursery was subsequently shut down by the incoming academy trust.