Queen's School to close
BY this time next year Queen s will, after 79 years, be history following the momentous decision this week to close the troubled Wisbech school on August 31. A robust timetable to bring about its closure and replace it with a new school on the same site
BY this time next year Queen's will, after 79 years, be history following the momentous decision this week to close the troubled Wisbech school on August 31.
A robust timetable to bring about its closure and replace it with a new school on the same site - with an expected £23 million improvement plan to follow- was agreed this week.
By the middle of next month Government approval for the radical solution to resolving the issue of Queens is expected.
On September 1 a new school, with a new head, new governors and, crucially, a new name will be in place on the Corporation Road site.
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Queens, built in 1928 at a cost of £20,000 for just 640 pupils (numbers have since more than doubled), and named after Queen Mary, will be confined to the history books.
Cambridgeshire County Council Cabinet approved the changes on Wednesday and will now focus on aligning their proposals to the Government's Fresh Start programme.
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"Urgent action needs to be taken to ensure that suitable arrangements are in place by September 2007 at the latest that will secure the strong secondary educational provision in Wisbech," said Hazel Belchamber, head of infrastructure.
Her report reminded councillors of the Government's power to direct a local authority to close a school requiring special measures or with serious weaknesses.
Fresh Start proposals are designed to replace a school in one or more of those categories with a new school, she said.
"This involves closing a school and opening a new, replacement school on the same site," she said.
Repercussions will involve the teaching, administrative and ancillary staff employed at the school as education chiefs fight to shake off one of the worst OfSTED reports any Cambridgeshire school has ever received.
OfSTED's judgement was that Queen's had reached rock bottom, and could sink no lower without direct intervention, her report concluded.
Under the Fresh Start initiative the priority would remain that of creating the "right learning environment to enable pupils to achieve their full educational potential," said Ms Belchamber.
A major review of staffing and governance will follow "to ensure the school has the right people in post to put in place and maintain that learning environment."
The council is to implement a Raising Achievement Plan to carry through their proposals and to draw support both from OfSTED and from the Department of Education.
Ms Belchamber said the strategy was not without some risk, and she identified these in a section of her report.
There was, she felt, still the potential for staff, parents/carers, community and other schools to object and there were no certainty the school could pull itself out of special measures.
There were also constraints in meeting a tight timetable and for appointing, within the next year, an experienced head.
She warned Cabinet: "The Department for Education and Skills does not expect to see weak and failing schools, with a long history of failure, replaced as 'like for like' community schools, unless these are Fresh Start schools."
Consultation with staff, parents and community groups is expected to begin by the beginning of November, a temporary governing body appointed by early January, and by Easter a new head is expected to be in position.
* At the end of the summer term, Steve McKenna, the head announced his resignation following publication of the damning OfSTED report. Inspectors claimed the school was failing to give its pupils and acceptable standard of education and they blamed the head and governing body for "not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvement." They also claimed there had been "an escalation of racist bullying".