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5 September 2017, 08:10 | Updated: 5 September 2017, 08:13
Controversial plans to merge two Isle of Wight secondary schools have been scrapped.
Operator AET wanted Sandown Bay Academy merged with Ryde's, saying it can't afford to run both.
Following the decision of the school's operators, Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) to merge them, an extraordinary meeting of the Full Council was held to discuss the issue. All members present voted to ask the government to remove education trust, AET, from the role of managing any school on the Island - and to take steps to either establish or promote and encourage the establishment of an accountable new local body to take on the management and running of Sandown Bay Academy.
After a series of discussions and meetings involving the leader of the council, Councillor Dave Stewart, and the Cabinet member for Children's Services, Councillor Paul Brading, along with AET, assurances have now been given that the plan to cease secondary education at Sandown has been withdrawn.
The focus has now shifted on to evaluating two remaining options, informed by data and advice on Sandown's day to day operations provided by AET. These options are either to transfer leadership of the school to another academy sponsor with a proven track record or to expand the age range of The Bay CE Primary School creating what is described as 'an all through school'. The latter is the preferred option of the Isle of Wight Council. AET has committed to supporting the Department for Education (DfE) and council plans by ensuring the best possible provision at Sandown Bay this academic year and an orderly transition before stepping aside. AET will continue to focus their attention on building on the recent successes at Ryde Academy.
Councillor Stewart said:
"This is a really positive outcome from what has been a very challenging issue for the new Island Conservative administration to address and I am grateful to all concerned for their hard work and commitment which has led to the position we have now achieved.
"The common agreement we have reached is that whatever the final option, a good standard of secondary education will continue to be provided at Sandown and indeed our aspiration is for the new school arrangements to lead to outstanding educational outcomes - because this is what the pupils deserve and need for a successful future."
It is expected that a final decision on the way forward will be made by mid October. That will mean that parents of Year 6 pupils can then make an informed decision about the school they choose for September 2018 as the admissions round closes on the 31 October 2017.
The announcement follows an extensive consultation process which took place at the end of last term. More than 1,800 people responded to the council's consultation, with 98 per cent backing the call for continuing secondary education in Sandown. Ninety five per cent of those consulted said it was "very important" that secondary education was secured. In terms of the two options being explored the vast majority of the community favoured the all through school option with 85 per cent of respondents lending their support to the plan. Thirty seven per cent of the respondents said they would support rebrokering the school to a different academy sponsor.
Councillor Brading said:
"I am absolutely thrilled that secondary education will continue for the Sandown community. The announcement means that we can have a fresh start in Sandown and we now have to make sure that the future arrangement delivers high standards and outstanding educational provision. More of the same is not acceptable - better education has to be provided."
Councillor Stewart, concluded by saying:
"I would like to thank the huge number of residents, parents, staff and students who have engaged with us and responded to the consultation process. The massive support for continuing secondary education at Sandown was a vital factor in our discussions and the result achieved. We will now be working hard to make sure the final decision is taken as speedily as possible so that we have absolute certainty as we move forward."