Plans to force primary school to become academy stall after public backlash

Mackie Hill was merged with Kettlethorpe High when it was placed in special measures at the end of last year.
Mackie Hill was merged with Kettlethorpe High when it was placed in special measures at the end of last year.

A controversial plan to prise apart two Wakefield schools against the will of parents and staff has stalled.

The government wanted Mackie Hill Junior and Infant School, which has been under the stewardship of nearby Kettlethorpe High for most of 2018, to become an academy in a move which would see the partnership broken up.

But the idea, which prompted outrage among Mackie Hill parents, has been delayed for now after a committee of regional head teachers couldn't decide on a sponsor to take over the school.

Sixth form provider Pontefract New College had been put forward by the Department of Education as their preferred candidate for the job, but the college has still yet to publicly comment on that proposal.

The academisation had been expected to be rubberstamped behind closed doors last week, but this did not happen. Instead, the matter has now been sent back to the Department of Education.

In a letter to parents this week, Mackie Hill head teacher Jayne Elliott said: "I have been overwhelmed by parents asking for information since the Head Teachers Board meeting last Thursday.

"We have been informed that the board was unable to make a decision on naming an academy sponsor and this has been referred back to Lord Agnew. We await an official response."

The school had been placed in special measures at the end of last year and was then merged with Kettlethorpe High. That move has been widely hailed as an overwhelming success by parents, who say their children's education has been transformed as a result.

A government inspector visited Mackie Hill last week, and will publish their findings in January. School sources have said they believe the visit was a success and could eventually lead to Ofsted giving it an improved rating in the new year.

If that happens, it could boost the prospects of the merger staying intact.

Sarah Cox, who has a son in Year 2 at the primary, has sent a letter to Lord Agnew with more than 1,350 signatures, asking him to abandon the academisation.

She said: "The difference in the school since Kettlethorpe took over has been tangible.

"It's just a really happy place now. Before you could tell there was something really wrong. The teachers were miserable.

"Now, the pupils are happy and the teachers are happy and Mrs Elliott has done an incredible job.

"We're just asking Lord Agnew to see sense and not wreck everything that's been achieved this year.

"No disrespect at all to Pontefract New College - I'm sure what they do is very good. But as a sixth form provider it would be completely unsuitable for Mackie Hill.

Wakefield MP Mary Creagh said the delay was good.

She said: "I think pressure and people power have really paid off in this instance.

"I think there was always a feeling that this was a political solution, which risked disruption to the good progress that has been made.

"I'm optimistic that if Ofsted visits in the spring and finds the leadership of the school is now good, the structures that have been put in place can continue."

The Department of Education and Pontefract New College have both been contacted for comment but have yet to respond.

Local Democracy Reporting Service