Moulsecoomb Primary academy sponsor pulls out and says school now faces closure

Posted On 16 Dec 2019 at 9:23 am

The proposed sponsor of Moulsecoomb Primary has pulled out and said that the school faces closure.

New Horizons Academy Trust criticised the campaign against the switch from being a local authority maintained school to an academy.

The academy trust’s director of education Lee Murley said that the biggest losers would be the school’s children.

He added: “At present the atmosphere for those looking to help the school feels toxic.”

Spacewords Brighton

The decision to walk away came after the New Horizons Academy Trust voted unanimously against sponsorship of Moulsecoomb Primary.

The board of trustees expressed regret at what they said was a “lost opportunity to help children achieve their potential”.

The trust said that it was invited to step in because Moulsecoomb Primary School was rated “inadequate” by the official education watchdog Ofsted.

Only 41 per cent of pupils achieved the expected standards in reading, writing and maths at key stage 2, compared with the national average of 69 per cent.

The trust said that, as a result of the school’s poor performance, the Department for Education issued an “academy order” in June.

The academy order said that, due to the failure of the local authority (Brighton and Hove City Council) to run the school effectively, it must be placed into a multi-academy trust.

The only alternative would be the closure of the school.

New Horizons Academy Trust, which runs Seaside Primary in Lancing – rated “outstanding” by Ofsted – was chosen to sponsor the school after a number of other trusts declined.

It cited “its pupils’ excellent results, its proven effective management and strong school-to-school support, as well as its close proximity to Brighton”.

Hands Off Moulsecoomb Primary School wave banners and hand out leaflets outside Meyle, in Shoreham, where New Horizons Academy Trust trustee Andrew Tress works as a sales director

Mr Murley, who is also the head teacher at Seaside Primary School, the multi-academy trust’s only other school, said: “We were very keen to work with the staff and parents of Moulsecoomb to share best practice and provide the children with some wonderful opportunities that are currently unavailable to them.

“We are a small, local academy trust. We have first-hand experience in turning a school around and transforming children’s education for the better and we wanted to share how we have done this with Moulsecoomb.”

But the trust said: “Opposition for New Horizon’s sponsorship of Moulsecoomb from parents, staff and Brighton politicians has, however, been strong, with protests and even a mock funeral being staged.

“One of the biggest reasons cited for opposition was that parents feared special education needs would not be provided for should Moulsecoomb become an academy. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

“We have many children at Seaside Primary with special education needs (16.8 per cent) and they are thriving socially and academically.

“On several occasions, Moulsecoomb parents and teachers were invited along to Seaside Primary to speak to some of the teachers, pupils and parents about what it’s really like being within the New Horizons family of schools but the invitations were refused.”

The trust said that it was keen for Moulsecoomb to maintain its unique identity: “We wanted to keep the name and would have actively encouraged community involvement.

“The location would not change. The building would not change. The only changes would be better management, more opportunities for the children and vastly improved learning.”

Mr Murley said: “Independent due diligence demonstrates Moulsecoomb Primary has a significant projected deficit of approximately £300,000.

“Class sizes at the moment are very small, with many being less than 20 children. Against all national benchmarks this is unsustainable for any school.

“The long-term sustainability of the school financially will continue to raise further problems if not addressed proactively.

“The school is over-staffed and still significantly underperforming.

“Although sponsoring the school would have meant enormous financial risk for the trust, it is one we were prepared to take as children’s education and the fate of a local school are at stake.

Lee Murley

“Unfortunately, we cannot work with a teaching body which has no desire to work with us – it diminishes the chances of us, or indeed anyone, being able to improve the school, and hinders the children’s progress.

“As a trust we have a moral obligation to ensure the welfare of our own staff and would feel highly uncomfortable about sending them into an environment where they would not be made welcome.

“At present the atmosphere for those looking to help the school feels toxic. Parental opposition is something we would never bow down to, when something as important as children’s futures are in question.

“But when objections come from within the school as well, that is when improvements become unviable.”

The trust added: “What happens next with Moulsecoomb is yet to be decided but it is likely that a larger academy trust from outside the area will take over.

“The alternative is that the school could be forced to close completely.”

Banners on the March for Moulsecoomb – Picture by Councillor Sarah Nield

Mr Murley said: “Those who lose the most in all this are the children of Moulsecoomb.

“It saddens me beyond measure to think their learning is suffering due to people’s misunderstanding of what it means to be part of a local academy trust school.

“The politics in Brighton regarding academisation is so entrenched that some candidates are using the situation at the school to garner support and win votes for their respective parties.

“Ironically, they all state how well the school is improving without any relative experience of school leadership themselves.

“I, like many of my colleagues, entered teaching to help as many children as possible reach their full potential and go on to achieve their greatest ambitions in life.

“Regrettably, the future of Moulsecoomb and its pupils is now in the balance.”

City Academy Whitehawk pupils celebrate being rated good by Ofsted with parent Dave Bailey, chair of governors Stephen Dawson, parent Nicola-Jayne Coonan, head David Williams, parent Tiffany Lawrence, council leader Warren Morgan, City College assistant principal Rebecca Conroy and Fonthill Foundation chairman Andrew Goodall

Whitehawk Primary School became an academy in September 2013 and four years later in September 2017 – as City Academy Whitehawk – the school became part of the Aurora Multi-Academy Trust.

The old primary school was rated “inadequate” by Ofsted but last year it was found to be “good” across the board with “outstanding” for “early years provision”.

It was a different story for Stanley Deason Secondary School which was rebranded as Marina High in September 1997.

It was closed and reopened under Labour’s “Fresh Start” programme in September 1999 when it became known as East Brighton College of Media Arts – or Comart – before closing for good in August 2005.

  1. Stephen Booth Reply

    What kind of journalism is this when the views of ‘parents, staff and Brighton politicians’ who oppose this move are not recorded?

    • Frank le Duc Reply

      Thanks, Stephen, but the views of parents, staff and politicians are well reported on our site. Some of them can be found by clicking on the stories under the heading “See also” which is on this page. And even a cursory search of our site will give you several other examples.

  2. Sam Reply

    Parents being invited on several occasions? Parent campaigners were invited ONCE, politely declined and asked for a public meeting for ALL parents with the trust.

    Also:NHAT never had an Ofsted inspection since their voluntary academisation which was 2016. But still NHAT uses the Osted “outstanding” on official letters.

    The also lost their only other school “The Laurels”.

    This article lacks important information unfortunately.

  3. MG Reply

    Wow what a totally negative,biased and one side waste of space this article is.

    • Dan Reply

      Not as negative, biased and illiterate as your comment though!

  4. bradly1 Reply

    useful article: i wonder “over-staffed” means?

    • hodder Reply

      Pupil numbers have fallen as families move out and students move in, just like in Bevendean. As a result, the school’s income has decreased, but the number of staff has not fallen in proportion to the drop in pupil numbers or income.

  5. Rob A Reply

    Moulsecoomb is rated inadequate and I would be interested to hear what the school intends to do to improve this. Academies are not always the enemy, (but do not suit every situation). If closure is a serious option surely parents and staff should look at the Academy situation again.

    • Sam Reply

      The school does not face closure. The closure of a school has to be proposed by the Local Authority, which BHCC doesn’t. Mr Murley should know that, or willingly spreads misinformation.
      The school has already improved in all areas of Ofsted’s criticism. Ofsted needs to have another look especially under the new framework.
      KS1 was already rated as good in the Ofsted report. KS2 has now followed the trajectory of improvements.
      Lee Murley has acknowledged the already made improvements in an email to the Regional Schools Commissioner a while back.

  6. PapaHenzPa Reply

    But that doesn’t make the article balanced, does it?

  7. Moulsecoomb Mick Reply

    I’m no fan of academies, they lack proper accountability, but this article just reports why New Horizons says it is pulling out, so why the negativity? I’m sure I can guess!

    • Sam Reply

      Because Mr Murley is stating things that he full well knows are not the case a la “the school faces closure”, which is a proposal the Local Authority would have to make and doesn’t. Also he states that he tried to arrange to meet parents, which is utter nonsense. We asked several times for a public meeting for all parents, but Mr Murley and his trustees did not want to.
      Glad they pulled out. With that attitude and set of values that NHAT showed, I’d have taken my kid out of that school like many other parents.

  8. jill Reply

    Wow there are plenty of people who still think it’s ok to shoot the messenger

  9. andy white Reply

    Perhaps you should read the coverage in the round, with all the many other articles on here. This site strikes me as quite sympathetic to the school. It was quick to publish a first-person opinion piece by one of the governors, just after the Ofsted report came out. Didn’t see you mouthing off about a lack of balance under that article, nor did anyone, and I think it speaks volumes.

  10. Peter Challis Reply

    Strange that the headmaster and the council are not accepting responsibility for this situation.

    Whilst the school OFSTED rating went from “good” to “requires improvement” in March 2017, the council left them alone and continued to congratulate themselves on how good the OFSTED results were across the city. It was only when OFSTED in April 2019 marked them as “inadequate” that the council seems to have started doing anything. Even then the reasons for not becoming an academy seem to be for political rather than educational reasons.


    • Sam Reply

      Did you actually read the Ofsted report? Or latest SAT results of KS2?

  11. kelly Reply

    the teachers just dont care at schools like this

    • Nikita Reply

      What do you mean with “schools like this”?
      My daughter goes to that school and I couldn’t wish for more compassionate staff. The SEN support is excellent as stated in the Ofsted report.
      Moulsecoomb had to let go of 11 staff members last years due to budget cuts. If you mean that by saying “schools like this”?

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