‘Outstanding’ Crawley infant school in bid for academy status

Pound Hill Infant School. Head teacher, Julie Knock-Bravery,  wants her school to become a academy.  Crawley.''Picture: Liz Pearce'LP1500577 SUS-150323-185101008
Pound Hill Infant School. Head teacher, Julie Knock-Bravery, wants her school to become a academy. Crawley.''Picture: Liz Pearce'LP1500577 SUS-150323-185101008

Turning an ‘outstanding’ local authority-controlled infant school into an academy is ‘definitely’ the right option, said its chairman of governors.

Pound Hill Infant School held its last public consultation meeting on it joining The University of Brighton’s Academies Trust (UBAT) at the school on Thursday (March 19).

The trust would take over the running of the school and be directly funded by central government. The governing body will vote on joining the five-month-old trust and becoming an academy in September after the consultation ends on Friday (March 27).

A member of the audience, who was a primary school governor and worked in the Department of Education, said: “The University of Brighton trust doesn’t have a track record. Why would a very successful school move from a poor local authority to an academy trust that has only existed for five months?”

He said the school would be joining a family of schools which were rated ‘Requires Improvement’ or ‘Inadequate’.

Headteacher Julie Knock-Bravery said joining UBAT would best enable the school to maintain its ‘Outstanding’ rating. She said unlike the local authority, UBAT offered the same support to its academies regardless of their Ofsted grade.

Ms Knock-Bravery said: “There are other local authorities that have invested in education and that’s not the case in this local authority.

“Some of our staff will tell you we are an ‘Outstanding’ school despite being in West Sussex. We have our own challenges here and maintaining ‘Outstanding’ is difficult and we are highly committed to doing that.”

Liz Davis, the school’s chairman of governors, said: “We definitely feel that this is the right option. We have to put aside our personal likes or dislikes of academies.

“We can make some very good choices for our school.”

Ms Knock-Bravery said West Sussex County Council’s support and services to schools rated ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted had decreased due to cut-backs.

Her school had been spending £1,000 per year and investing staff time sourcing and buying from alternative service providers for the last three years instead.

She said the council’s services, which included human resources, building and land maintenance, finance and IT, had been of ‘variable’ quality.

She added the service contracts were getting worse and said: “We don’t even buy into the IT any more because it’s so poor.”

The university would offer her staff an ‘exciting’ range of professional development courses. Mrs Davis would represent the school on UBAT’s board of directors.

Ms Knock-Bravery said being part of UBAT would give her school more control over how it used its funds and offer services at better value for money. She said the administration involved in the conversion would take less than a day’s work and reduce paperwork at the school.

The trust’s culture and ethos were ‘absolutely parallel’ to her schools, she said.

A county council spokesman said: “The majority of services we offer to schools are universal and all schools are able to access the same level of service regardless of their Ofsted rating.

“There are certain enhanced support services which are offered to schools which may need additional support and not those which are already rated as good or outstanding. It was highlighted recently that the county receives low funding per head of child population from central government so we need to be careful to make sure every pound is targeted wisely.