Mackie Hill Primary School parents hail victory as academy takeover hits big setback

Parents fighting to keep their children's primary school out of the hands of an academy chain are hailing a major victory, after the proposed takeover by a sixth form provider collapsed.

Thursday, 4th July 2019, 5:46 pm
Parents have campaigned tirelessly against the proposed academisation since it was first mooted at the end of last year. Picture by Lee Ward.

Mackie Hill Junior and Infant School in Crigglestone was due to be transferred into the hands of New Collaborative Learning Trust, which runs New College in Pontefract, as well as sister sites in Doncaster and Bradford.

But now, after tireless opposition to the move from parents, the trust has pulled out of the deal, which had been proposed by the Department of Education.

Those connected with Mackie Hill want the primary to stay in partnership with nearby Kettlethorpe High School, which is run by the council.

Teaching unions, the council and local MP Mary Creagh had also opposed the move. Picture by Catherine Holmes.

Parents credit this arrangement, which has been in place for around 18 months, with turning standards at the once failing primary around.

Although the government is still seeking a new sponsor to turn Mackie Hill into an academy, this latest development is being seen as a serious blow to the plans.

Catherine Holmes, the chair of the Mackie Hill Parent Teacher Association (PTA), said: "The news is amazing. It's the best we could have hoped for.

"The New Collaborative Learning Trust was going to use my two children and all the rest of the children at Mackie Hill as guinea pigs to broaden their own horizons.

Parents want to keep Mackie Hill partnered with Kettlethorpe High School. Picture by Catherine Holmes.

"They have no experience of educating children under the age of 16, and they were going to use us as an experiment.

"As it turns out, we weren't going to stand for it and I don't think they could hack it in the end."

Parents are now hopeful that Ofsted inspectors will return to the school promptly and upgrade it to a 'good' rating - a scenario that may force the government to abandon its academy proposals altogether.

Mrs Holmes added: "If Ofsted went into the school tomorrow, I think they'd see how good it is now.

Parents credit the Kettlethorpe High merger with turning Mackie Hill around.

"The head teacher, Mrs (Jayne) Elliott, is the best thing that could have happened to the school. The teaching is better and she's approachable.

"The school’s been through enough change. Why force an academisation on us and cause more disruption to the pupils? It’s just a very happy place now."

MP Mary Creagh, who has also opposed the academisation, welcomed the news and urged the government to back down on its plans.

She tweeted: "Good news for the fight to stop forced academisation of Mackie Hill in Wakefield. Ministers must now think again and stop putting ideology above pupils’ progress."

The New Collaborative Learning Trust has not responded to a request for comment.

Beate Wagner, Wakefield Council's corporate director for children and young people said: "The local authority will continue to support the school on its journey out of special measures.

"When this happens, we will ask the Secretary of State to rescind the academy order."

Local Democracy Reporting Service