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Education in the media: 11 September 2017

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Academies, SEND

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Today’s news review looks at the coverage on Wakefield City Academies Trust and disabled children’s journeys to school.

Disabled children’s journeys

Yesterday, Sunday 10 September, disability charity Contact published a press release about disabled children’s journeys to school. This was covered by BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC news online. The charity called for the Secretary of State to send a clear message to local authorities that their statutory duties to disabled children must be reflected in their transport policies.

We are clear that local authorities must make transport arrangements for all children who cannot reasonably be expected to walk to school because of their mobility problems or because of associated health and safety issues related to their special educational needs or disability. We expect councils to put appropriate arrangements in place and make decisions that are best suited to local circumstances.

Local authorities are spending nearly £1 billion each year to provide home to school transport, with around £600million of this being spent on transport for pupils with special educational needs and disability (SEND).

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

We are investing £222 million over four years to help local authorities improve special educational needs and disability (SEND) services and local authorities must provide school transport for all eligible children with SEND.

In light of the findings by Contact, the department will review the statutory guidance for local authorities to ensure it is clear.

Wakefield City Academies

On Friday, 8 September Wakefield City Academy Trust announced plans to re-broker 21 of its academies. This was reported by the BBC online, The Guardian, ITV news, Daily Mail and The Star.

One of the key strengths of the academy system is the capacity for quick and decisive intervention but the termination of an academy’s funding agreement is not taken lightly. We became aware that we needed to take firm action to address underperformance following 2016 results showing a decline. We acted as soon as we were aware of the decline in results and have been talking to the Trust over the past year to find solutions. These included strengthening the Trust Board and appointing an interim CEO.

It was right to give the Trust an opportunity to demonstrate that it could make sustainable improvements at its academies. However, it is clear that re-brokerage is the only way to ensure pupils receive the best possible education.

The Regional Schools Commissioners for Lancashire and West Yorkshire and the East Midlands and Humber are working with the trust to identify new sponsors.

Academies will remain part of Wakefield City Academies Trust until a suitable sponsor can be found, supported by the Regional Schools Commissioner.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

We have agreed to the re-brokerage of all 21 schools under the Wakefield City Academy Trust’s control.

Academy trusts operate under a strict system of oversight and accountability – more robust than in council-run schools – allowing us to take swift action to deal with under-performance, including transferring schools to new trusts where necessary. Our priority is to ensure all children receive the best possible education and the Regional Schools Commissioners for Lancashire and West Yorkshire and the East Midlands and Humber are working with the trust to identify new sponsors and to ensure minimal disruption for pupils.

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