Moulsecoomb Primary could become academy before next school year starts

Moulsecoomb Primary looks likely to become an academy before the start of the next school year, a senior official has said this week.

Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 10:36 am
Strike action outside Moulsecoomb Primary School earlier this yeara

Richard Barker, the head of schools organisation at Brighton and Hove City Council, also said that the council would be saddled with Moulsecoomb’s six-figure deficit.

Mr Barker was responding to direct questions about the school becoming an academy, in particular, the implications for other schools’ finances.

Peter Freeman, who chairs the Brighton and Hove Schools Forum, said that Moulsecoomb Primary School finished the year £131,644 over its £1,176,793 budget.

Mr Freeman, who also chairs the governors at Coombe Road Primary School, asked what this would mean for the “designated schools grant”.

The grant, based in large part on pupil numbers, forms a key part of a school’s funding. Currently the school has capacity for more than 600 pupils but has just 226.

Mr Barker said that the council would bear the responsibility for the school’s budget deficit once it transferred to the Department for Education’s preferred sponsor, the Pioneer Academy Trust.

As yet, there is no fixed date for the transfer from Brighton and Hove City Council to Pioneer although the trust hopes to take charge by Wednesday 1 September.

Mr Barker said: “There are wishes for that to take place as soon as possible. One can anticipate that the start of an academic year would be one of those particular relevant dates with regards to that.”

He said that the lack of a date put a “question mark” over the designated schools grant until the transfer took place.

He said that the council had passed on all the information about the budget to the Department for Education including the predicted outcome for the end of this year.

Once the school transfers to Pioneer’s control, the trust will receive the school’s share of the grant.

The government ordered the school to become an academy after it was rated “inadequate” by the official watchdog Ofsted in 2019.

Ofsted carried out a “monitoring” inspection last month and said: “Leaders and managers are taking effective actions towards the removal of the serious weaknesses designation.”

Parents and supporters have held protests to try to prevent the school coming under the control of a multi-academy trust.

Pioneer said last week that it intended to spend “significant funds on improving the school’s building within the first year of taking on Moulsecoomb” although it hadn’t finalised the amount.

The trust said: “This investment will help to substantially upgrade pupils’ learning environment. The priority is to enhance classrooms and ‘early years foundation stage’ spaces.

“The trust will also look to redevelop the outdoor learning space and make improvements to the overall building and grounds such as roofing and fencing.”