Council moves to replace Tollgate Primary School’s governing body

Exterior of Tollgate Primary School, Bury St Edmunds.
Exterior of Tollgate Primary School, Bury St Edmunds.
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Suffolk County Council is seeking to replace the governing body of a school in special measures which plans to join the Bury St Edmunds Academy Trust.

The move was revealed just a day before the cabinet rubber stamped plans to move to two-tier education in the Bury area.

Tollgate Primary, which has been in special measures for more than a year, was recently granted orders from the Department for Education to become a 4-9 academy within the Bury Academy Trust, which is led by the ‘outstanding’ Ofsted rated County Upper.

A council spokesman said it is looking to replace the current governing body with an Interim Executive Board.

He said: “In January issued a legal notice to the governors at Tollgate Primary School advising of our intention to intervene as a result of the school’s current special measures status.

“We asked governors for their views and have since notified them that we’re in the process of making an Interim Executive Board application which will be sent to the Secretary of State for approval.”

But Dr Richard Fletcher, chairman of the Academy Trust, said the trust had ‘full confidence’ in the school’s current governors.

He said: “We do not understand why the local authority is seeking ministerial approval to impose an Interim Executive Board in place of the current Governing Body at Tollgate School.

“The Bury St Edmunds Academy Trust has full confidence in the school’s Governing Body and we believe we can work together to improve standards at the school in a way that the local authority has so far failed to do.

“The Department for Education approved conversion to academy status for Tollgate school, as part of the Bury St Edmunds Academy Trust on February 12.

“The department has shown support for our all-through approach and we expect their continued support for the very important work of raising standards at Tollgate School.”

In a statement from Tollgate’s governing body it said the support available from the Academy Trust ‘far exceeds’ what it has received from the local authority.

The statement says: “Having listened to parents and the opinions of the community we serve, we decided that the interest of the children in our locality would be best served by Tollgate Primary School joining the Bury St Edmunds Academy Trust.

“As a Governing Body we have their full support and are confident that with their help we will quickly be able to move the school forward.

“This decision was made based up on the following facts.

“Our children will have direct access to Count Upper School, which is one of the top schools in the country and has been Outstanding for its last eight Ofsted Reports.

“The County Upper School was built to serve our community and its close proximity (five minutes from gate to gate) to Tollgate Primary School ensures that we will be able to easily access outstanding educational practice.

“Within the Academy TRUST there is an Outstanding Primary School which is a national teaching school who are on board to support us.

“The support available to us from the Academy Trust far exceeds that which we have received to date from the Local Authority.”

“We are in receipt of Academy Orders signed by Michael Gove, Secretary for Education, and solicitors have been instructed to make the transfer.

“The application to join the Academy Trust preced action from the Local Authority to replace the Governing Body with an Interim Executive Board.

“The Department of Education, within the Governor’s Handbook (Jan 2014) states that rather than paying members of an Interim Executive Board the Secretary of State has preferred instead to seek an academy solution for under-performing schools.

“The Academy Trust is already working with Tollgate Primary School to implement a programme of support with immediate effect.

“The last HMI Report in December 2013 stated that the Governing Body has been strengthened; therefore, we feel that the Local Authority has acted in haste and that proper procedures have not been followed. As such, we remain the current Governing Body of Tollgate Primary.

“As the Governing Body of Tollgate Primary School our aims and focus has always been, and continues to be, the welfare and education of the children we serve as we work towards becoming an Outstanding school within the Academy Trust.”