At last night’s extraordinary full council meeting (catch up here), all members in the chamber got fully behind Cllr Julia Baker-Smith’s motion to demand academy sponsor, Academies Enterprise Trust, be removed from the role of managing any school on the Isle of Wight.
Five different options have been identified to securing the future of education on the Sandown Bay site without any involvement of AET. Leader of the Isle of Wight council, Cllr Dave Stewart (Con), is expected to give instruction to Hampshire officers in the next 48 hours as to which of the five options to pursue.
Baker Smith: Travel “completely unacceptable”
During the debate at County Hall on Wednesday evening, Cllr Baker Smith said the idea young people should be expected to travel from the Sandown Bay area to Ryde (around six miles, but half that which young people from Ventnor have to travel to attend school in Newport) was “completely unacceptable”.
She said it was an example of what can happen when public services are privatised and given over to private companies to run.
Looking for alternative
The Leader of the Island Independent councillors went on to say that the institution can no longer be brought back within council control, which is why the second part of her motion (see here) was to establish or promote and encourage someone else to take over the running of the school in Sandown.
Members were quite clear with their support for the motion and the need to retain a school site in Sandown Bay area.
Howe: “AET should be ashamed”
Cllr Howe (Ind) told members how he’d lived through the same thing with Weston Primary school (which was taken over and then shut down by AET).
“AET should be ashamed of how they’ve treated people on the Island.”
Andre: “Clear, swift and robust resolution”
Cllr Debbie Andre (Ind) said now was not the time for rhetoric and platitudes, “we need action”.
She added that children entering their final GCSE year have already suffered under the reorganisation process and that “students need to be put at the centre of this with a clear, swift and robust resolution to the current issue” in order to prevent the same sort of educational disruption they’ve already been through.
Lilley: Support and counselling vital
Cllr Lilley (Green) – an expert in mental health – told members that 80% of adults with long-term mental health problems are identified as having such when children.
He said it was vital the young people going through the disruption and suffering get the right support and counselling, otherwise two or three generations could be affected by the trauma.
Quirk: AET “driven by money”
Former chair of Governors at the school, Cllr Chris Quirk (Con), told members he believed AET are driven entirely by money and not the educational outcomes of pupils.
He explained the mission statement from AET did not, until a couple of months ago, talk about educational outcomes – but spoke only about financial elements.
Cllr Quirk went on to say the treatment of staff and pupils was atrocious. Just one week before the announcement of the closure one of the main board directors of AET assured him there was no consideration of the school being closed.
Cllr Chris Whitehouse told members, “AET are financially incompetent and educationally illiterate,” adding that “they have no place in our schools on the Island”.
Cllr Dave Stewart told members that he’d had frank and challenging discussion with AET.
They had a clear agenda and he was disappointed by the lack of consultation with Hampshire staff.
All 32 members remaining in the chamber voted in favour of the motion – which was met with huge applause from the public gallery.
This Council is appalled at the recent behaviour of the AET Academy Chain in relation to Sandown Academy School. The School is a valuable and important part of the education system on the Isle of Wight and secondary education provision needs to be retained, preserved and promoted in the Bay Area.
In light of the behaviour of AET and the concerns this gives rise to this Council resolves to take such steps as it can to;
- Approach the relevant Government Office to demand that AET be removed from the role of managing any school on the Isle of Wight.
- To take steps to either establish or promote and encourage the establishment of an accountable body to take on the management and running of a school on the Sandown Bay site.