Partnership plan to rescue school

GOVERNORS at a struggling Essex college have launched a last-ditch bid to save it from closure by announcing plans to form a “hard federation” with a nearby school.

Elliot Furniss

GOVERNORS at a struggling Essex college have launched a last-ditch bid to save it from closure by announcing plans to form a “hard federation” with a nearby school.

The £25milllion Bishops Park College in west Clacton, which was opened to great fanfare in 2002 but is currently operating in special measures and with an executive head teacher, is looking to forge a close partnership with nearby Colbayns High School.

The plans have been welcomed by Essex County Council, which is responsible for providing education in the county and has recently closed a consultation process looking at plans to close the state-of-the-art Bishops Park site.

Although the move was also backed by the NUT, it raised concerns about the possible long term future of the Bishops Park, which has struggled to make progress since being placed in special measures by Ofsted inspectors last year.

Nick Pavitt, who runs Colbayns and took the reigns as executive head at Bishops Park in February, said it was a “very exciting time” for secondary education in the area and he was extremely positive about the future.

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He said: “The two schools already work together exceptionally well and, if the federation goes ahead, this will consolidate our partnership and provide a really strong basis for the future that will allow us to provide exciting curriculum opportunities for our students and to drive up standards at both schools.

“We are working closely with the local authority, the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust to look at all of the possibilities for the future and are very encouraged by initial feedback.”

He said staff at both schools were committed to serving the young people, their families and the local community in order to provide a “first class” educational and community provision.

Mr Pavitt added: “We intend to do this in partnership with local and national stakeholders. We would encourage parents and others to let us have their views on the federation proposal so that governors can make an informed decision in June.”

Mr Pavitt is set to remain in his post until September, by which time it is envisaged the schools will form a “hard federation” with a single governing body.

The 500-pupil college opened as part of a PFI at a cost of around £25million. It was visited soon after its opening by former Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Jerry Glazier, general secretary for the Essex branch of the NUT, said that although the union was not opposed to federations, reservations remained that they could potentially lay the ground work for academies - something the union was firmly against.

He said: “If it was being seen as a first step towards creating an academy then it is something we oppose. The hard federation is designed to secure the future of Bishops Park - if it achieves that then it's something I would see as beneficial.”

A spokesman for the council said the consultation was a separate process than the proposals for an academy in the area, which were not affected by the move.

He said: “The priority is to get Bishops Park out of special measures and it's encouraging that the first visit from inspectors found satisfactory progress was being made.

“The council believes that a federation between Bishops Park and Colbayns would help bring about more rapid improvement.”