At the Downham Market Academy Sixth Form open evening on October 19, parents and students were very concerned to hear the principal Mr Purvis, clearly hint that the Sixth Form could close if student numbers were insufficient.
I wonder if Mr Purvis realises what a devastating impact this could have on the rest of the school and on future students and indeed Downham itself. The sixth form was the only area to receive a good rating in the 2017 Ofsted inspection and it was described as “a beacon for the school”. How will Mr Purvis lift standards in the rest of the school without that “beacon” and that standard to aspire to?
The Academy already has difficulty in recruiting staff. Losing the sixth form would make this even more difficult.
The Cambridge Education Trust which Downham Academy now belongs to, consists of it and one other school, the Chesterton Community Academy, which does not currently have a sixth form.
The question is does the Trust have the necessary experience in running a sixth form?
Downham parents should also be worried whether the trust has got plans to sell off the Sixth Form site and what would happen to any proceeds from such a sale.
Would any proceeds of such a sale be used solely to benefit Downham Academy or could they be used to benefit the Chesterton Community Academy?
In the light of the Guardian report of October 21 about the Wakefield City Academies Trust and the transfer of those schools’ funds into its own account before its financial collapse, it seems that the government has no safeguards in place to prevent unscrupulous Trusts from asset stripping.
We know that Downham Market Academy is set to lose £38.5k (£34 per student) by 2020 and Chesterton Community Academy £213k (£221 per student). Both schools will be losers, but Chesterton will be losing much more.
I urge Elizabeth Truss MP to promise the people of Downham that Downham Academy assets cannot be used to subsidise Chesterton Community College and that the Sixth Form will not be closed. She has said that local schools would not be damaged by the cuts. Given these figures that does not appear to be true.