A HIGH-PERFORMING school’s bid to take more control over its own future has been put on hold after two of its four prospective partners pulled out.
Governors at 1,100-student Ponteland High in Northumberland have agreed to delay their bid to become one of the Government’s flagship foundation trust schools.
The decision was taken after Newcastle Airport and the Newcastle Business School at Northumbria University made a U-turn on plans to be partners in the venture – leaving only Northumberland County Council and the Co-operative Group on board.
Yesterday governors said they remain committed to the trust plan and could have gone ahead without the two organisations, but have agreed to use their withdrawal as an opportunity to find new prospective partners.
Ponteland High – which is one the best-performing state schools in the North East – sees foundation trust status as an exciting opportunity to build on its successes.
While remaining part of the state system, it would offer more freedom to decide how best to raise standards, strengthen its leadership and staffing, develop and deliver a vision for the future and work in closer partnership with parents and the local community. The move would also see the governing body become the employer of the school’s staff, be able to decide on admissions and take ownership of the school’s land and assets.
Trust status would mean extra support coming from named partners under a charitable trust, with representatives joining the governing body.
Last year opposition to the move was voiced by some of the school’s teachers, who questioned whether it would result in any real improvements in educational standards and voiced concerns about pay, conditions and pension rights.
Yesterday chairman of governors Mike Brown said: “It is disappointing that these two excellent organisations are no longer able to take on partnership roles, but we understand fully their respective positions and look forward to working with them in other ways in future. We remain committed to seeking foundation trust status and are certain that Ponteland High will find the right partners to help us secure that status. Foundation trust status would be a positive step for the school, because it would give us far more freedom to develop the innovative approaches we have already applied to making this one of the best schools around, and seek out new ways of improving the range and quality of service we offer.”
Chris Sanders, head of aviation development at the airport, said the decision to pull out as a partner followed an internal review of resources. This identified a difficulty in guaranteeing the support which the school and other trust partners would require.
Northumbria University spokesman, Jonathan Ray, said its new corporate strategy included a commitment to work with every school in the North East, and provide them with a consistent level of support.