REACH Academy - Verbal Report
- Meeting of Education and Children's Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Wednesday 17 November 2021 1.30 pm (Item 72.)
Dean Ashton, Chief Executive for REACH South Academy Trust presented this item to the committee and highlighted the following key points:
REACH was a multi academy trust that had been founded in 2016. Plymouth had became the heart of REACH South and since then the Trust had set up 14 academies with 10 in Plymouth, of were primary schools within Devonport and the other being Goosewell Primary Academy. The Trust also operated UTC Plymouth and Millbay Academy.
There were 12 trustee on the board all of whom had been successful in their own worlds and came from a range of backgrounds.
It had not been uncommon with the collaboration of Millbay Academy and High Street primary school, this would happen to increase capacity and improve the quality of leadership.
Millbay Academy and High Street Primary school had been geographically close. Millbay joined the trust due to OFSTED ruling that the school had been in unusually deep special measures for quality of education and various other qualities that would be expected of a school. The school had been on a transformational journey which had included the integration of a high quality leadership team who had significant experience in turning schools around. The Trust had also implemented a different form of Governance which focussed on schools improvement.
Millbay Academy pupil numbers had dropped since joining the trust due to parents electing to send their children to an alternative school due to the poor Ofsted reviews from 2019. Parents had also exercised their right to take their children elsewhere due to disagreementwith the Ofsted findings and subsequent decision to join the trust.
High Street Primary Academy’s pupil numbers remained stable at 119 including nursery, however the school had been recognised as being half full with full capacity being 210, this created capacity issues at the school.
The Trust therefore brought the two schools together in order to embed a high quality leadership team and a governance structure focussed on school improvement. This decision had also been implemented to rationalise costs of management and the back office, this would focus resourcing of high quality teaching in the primary phase.
The Trust had been working with Government on a significant capital investment into Millbay Academy which equated between £4-6 million. It was determined by the trust that although looked nice aesthetically from the outside, did not operate how a school should with the open plan nature of the building not providing an area for focussed and effective learning. The long term vision would to merge both schools together.
The consultation process between parents and the community as a whole to move students from High Street Primary Academy to Millbay Academy and vice versa.
It was clarified that the leadership team consulted with parents around the plans for both schools. It was recognised that not all parents had been satisfied with the decisions, but the Trust had done their best to consult parents where they could. The Trust continued to evaluate whether the new arrangements were working.
It was confirmed that there were no parents on the intervention board, however the intervention board would be time limited with the task of turning the school around from a deep special measure school into a school that would be fit for purpose. When those time limits had been reached, the board would then revert to a normal governing body where two parents would be elected. The timescale for Millbay and High street would be to achieve that by September 2022, parental election would take place in summer 2022. The Trust Board would take a decision in Easter 2022 as to whether the school should return to a local governing body.
The Curriculum at Millbay Academy had been unlawful, the law required that there would be a broad and balanced curriculum including Maths, English and Science, Millbay Academy made Science optional which had resulted in a dysfunctional curriculum. Since the Trusts involvement this has been resolved however many parents were unhappy with the decision to reinstate Science as a mandatory subject and believed that this had gone against the creative ethos of the school.
The behaviour policy had been broken at the school which had resulted in attendance of pupils at school being very poor. The environment for the children and young people had been anarchic with physical capacity issues which had led to children feeling unsafe. Leaders at the school re-established discipline policies and created a consistent and safe environment for every child, attendance rated had subsequently risen. Staff attendance rates had been low as the environment was not a fun or safe place to work.
An update was provided on the estates on both schools; High Street Primary Academy continued to provide an early years setting; Millbay also had green field access which Millbay completely lacked.
The trust had no intention to dispose of the High Street site and if this changed in the future would need Secretary of State approval who would seek recommendations from Plymouth City Council. Dean Ashton clarified that the trust had no plans or intentions to dispose of the High Street site and was a huge asset to the trust.
It was advised that the use of different school uniforms within one setting would cause segregation issues between children and young people.
The Committee thanks Dean Ashton for his attendance at the committee.