A HUGE question mark hangs over the scheme to replace three Ellesmere Port secondary schools with two academies after Whitby High said “no” to the plans.
During a meeting last week, governors made a final decision not to support the proposals, which would have seen the Sycamore Drive site converted into the South Academy, while Ellesmere Port Specialist School of Performing Arts became the North Academy and Cheshire Oaks High closed completely.
Chair of Whitby governors, borough councillor Myles Hogg, said although they were not “ideologically” opposed to the scheme, they opted not to give it their backing as certain conditions could not be met by the sponsors.
Despite earlier assurances by the scheme’s main sponsor, the University of Chester, that current staff would not be broken up and the existing admission arrangements would remain the same, governors were told this cannot now be guaranteed.
The scheme’s prospects now look bleak as the county’s director of children’s services Joan Feenan said in a recent report the option of closing two schools and replacing them with one academy would not be viable or supported by the Government.
Cllr Hogg told the Pioneer: “This is not a decision we have taken lightly. None of the governors have been totally opposed to the academy model. But our first responsibility is to the school, the pupils and staff.”
Whitby headteacher Margaret Hughes said the scheme was “flawed from the outset” and turning three schools into two academies was something that had not been tried before.
She added although Whitby was over-subscribed, the uncertainty surrounding the academy plans had resulted in a “greater number” of parents considering sending their primary school-aged children to high schools outside the area, particularly in Wirral.
A Cheshire County Council spokeswoman said: “We need to consider the situation and take advice from elected members and discuss it with the department for schools, children and families before making a considered judgement.”
Whitby says it now intends to continue as a foundation school.