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Academy 'threatens viability of good schools'

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The opening of a new academy in Tyneside could cause successful schools to become “unviable”, the councillor responsible for education in the area has warned.

Ian Grayson (Lab) said a decision by the Department for Education last month to allow the private secondary King’s School to merge with the state sector Priory Primary, to become a state-funded academy, would pose problems for local schools that had been rated “good” by Ofsted.

“The numbers of pupils at the other good schools will fall significantly,” Cllr Grayson, North Tyneside Council’s cabinet member for children, young people and learning said. “There comes a point when a school simply becomes unviable.”

His fears echo concerns raised in a research report commissioned by the Department for Education, which published its findings in June 2012.

The report, by the consultancy firm Isos Partnership, said the government’s education reforms threatened the viability of schools that were successful and met specific local needs.

Cllr Grayson said the announcement had forced North Tyneside Council to initiate a review of school provision, which may result in some schools being merged or closed.

“We’re not saying there will definitely be closures, but we’re saying we can’t rule out closures and amalgamations,” he said.

He added that North Tyneside had a 14% surplus of school places - a figure that was expected to rise to 18% over the next three to four years due to demographic factors. The opening of the new school would push the surplus up to 20%, he said.

However, a DfE spokeswoman accused the council of standing in the way of a popular proposal. “It is a shame that the council has sought to stand in the way of a proposal that clearly has the support of local parents,” she said.

“The Kings Priory School proposal will see two high-performing schools become a new all-through academy open to all children in the area. This will give parents the choice of an excellent state school in their area, and if it forces other local schools to raise their game, that can only be a good thing.”

She said the new school would have no impact on primary places and would only increase secondary places by a “minimal amount”.

The new school is due to open in September, with about 900 new places.

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