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Village School academisation plans on track despite investigations at partner school

PUBLISHED: 07:01 24 January 2019

Governors have voted for the Village School to form a multi-academy trust with Woodfield School in the face of regular inductrial action by staff members. Photo by Brent NEU

Governors have voted for the Village School to form a multi-academy trust with Woodfield School in the face of regular inductrial action by staff members. Photo by Brent NEU

Archant

A Kingsbury special needs school could become an academy in a little over a week, despite dark clouds hanging over its partner.

The Village School, which caters for 270 students between the ages of three and 19, is in the final stages of joining with Woodfield School to form a multi-academy trust (MAT).

But the move remains in choppy waters after the school confirmed an investigation is currently underway at Woodfield into concerns raised by a whistleblower.

This follows an Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) investigation into Woodfield, following alleged financial irregularities highlighted by the Brent National Education Union. The ESFA report is yet to be published. Plans to “academise” the school were approved by the Department for Education in May, despite several strikes by teachers and protests by placard-bearing parents and NEU members.

The school, rated “outstanding” by Ofsted, is a cherished part of the Kingsbury community and protesters had been fighting for it to remain a council asset.

Kay Charles, executive headteacher of both The Village and Woodfield, told the Times that the provisional date of February 1 remains in place for the academy conversion, and confirmed an independent reviewer has been appointed to investigate. The school would not be drawn on the nature of the investigation in order to ensure a “fair, objective and transparent process”.

Cllr Jumbo Chan, who has campaigned against the proposal from the start, said: “It is worrying that investigations into Woodfield School are taking place. Nevertheless, regardless of the matters currently being raised, the decision to academise was misguided, unnecessary and hugely disappointing.

“The decision was overwhelmingly opposed by parents, campaigners, and the school’s teachers and support staff, who, on the evening when the governing body made their ill-judged decision, were shut out of their own school by hired private security, and left to face the freezing cold as they tried to defend their own school.

“The governing body should now properly listen to their committed, outstanding staff, withdraw their application, and stay with Brent Council.”

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