Oakmeeds Community College to become an academy

Oakmeeds Community College, Burgess Hill SUS-140325-094223001
Oakmeeds Community College, Burgess Hill SUS-140325-094223001

Oakmeeds Community College has announced it plans to convert to an academy in September next year.

The Burgess Hill college wants to place greater emphasis on academic support and the sharing of best practice, similar to other school based smaller trusts.

The college has benefitted from support received from Millais School in Horsham, which can no longer be provided by West Sussex County Council.

Head teacher Colin Taylor said: “We’ve made real progress this year, we’re building on what we have started, it’s the start of a journey.”

In a letter to parents, chair of governors David Fry said: “The importance of having an academic support network was not fully appreciated then as it is now.”

The college said smaller academies generally have a less prescriptive approach to governance which preserves the character and ethos of their member schools, areas it believes to be of great importance.

In July 2013 governors of Oakmeeds decided to defer any decision to move to academy status until 2014 following a lengthy period of investigation, discussion and consultation.

There have been considerable developments in the intervening 15 months at Oakmeeds.

In March Oakmeeds was placed in special measures after 50 per cent of pupils achieved five A* to C grades, including English and Maths, which was below the national average.

This was improved to 55 per cent this summer, with head teacher Colin Taylor describing the school as having turned a corner.

In 2013 the discussion centred on conversion to a free-standing academy, which left many questions concerning governance unanswered, which was the predominant reason for deferral.

Since the reasons for deferral have largely been addressed, the governors have decided to start the process of finding a suitable organisation to join, with a view to conversion to an academy in September 2015.

Mr Fry added: “As the matter progresses staff, students, parents and the wider community will be kept fully updated. We look forward to a bright future at Oakmeeds.”

There have been a growing number of school based smaller trusts over the past year

The college will be supported by Robert Back from the Department of Education.

Earlier this year an Ofsted report concluded results and teaching was inadequate in many areas, as teachers did not have high enough expectations of what students should achieve. It also found the quality and regularity of marking and feedback was a significant weakness. It questioned the strength of leadership and governance in the school.

Complaints were also made about the lack of CRB checks on cleaning staff, which was rectified.

Governors vowed to establish new management structures to monitor the work of teachers more closely.

The tie with centre for excellence Millais School in Horsham has seen head teacher Leon Nettley visit Oakmeeds on a regular basis to offer guidance and advice.

Oakmeeds vowed to raise expectations, and head teacher Colin Taylor said the school’s fortune had ‘absolutely’ turned around after improved results this year.

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