Academy hope for school under threat

Skerton pupils with MP David Morris and parents' representative Robyn Haltham at 10 Downing Street
Skerton pupils with MP David Morris and parents' representative Robyn Haltham at 10 Downing Street

Skerton High School could be saved from closure if the government decides to turn it into a sponsored academy.

Last week, pupils from the school joined MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale David Morris in delivering a 3,500 name petition to 10 Downing Street and the Houses of Parliament.

Parents and pupils at the school are campaigning to save it from closure, which has been proposed by Lancashire County Council. Officers say falling role numbers and low grades are to blame.

Mr Morris also met with education minister Lord Nash, who is to send an adviser from the Department of Education into the school.

The adviser would consider whether the school was providing a unique education, and if that proved to be the case, and they believed the school was failing OFSTED standards, they will report back to Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove, who has the power to turn the school into a sponsored academy, or a “free school”.

This would mean the school comes under the direct control of central government and a “sponsor” which is able to influence the processes at the school, 
including its curriculum, ethos and specialism.

Robyn Holtham, fromthe school’s parent action group said: “The issue about the school failing is due to lack of support and commitment from the county council, so taking it out of their control would solve that issue. I can speak for a lot of parents when I say that this is the best possible outcome for the school.”

If it became an academy, the school’s existing governing body would be replaced by an “executive board” and sponsor, and could potentially re-open as an academy the next day.

Mr Morris, who said that a moratorium could be put on the school’s land to prevent its sale or conversion to a different use, added: “Either way there will be no disruption to the children’s education.”

Lyndon Day, acting head at Skerton said: “We are extremely happy and grateful that the school is receiving so much support from parents and the community, and we are very proud of our pupils who acted as superb ambassadors for the school at the House of Commons.

“The developments in London, last week, following the meeting between Lord Nash, Susan Willoughby, Skerton High chair of governors and David Morris MP obviously offer the school one possible lifeline to be more fully explored in the future.

“Meanwhile we await the results of Lancashire County Council’s consultation and the visit of the DfE representative.

“In the meantime, the school is continuing with the important business of educating and caring for our pupils.”

Matthew Tomlinson, Lancashire County Council’s cabinet member for children, is due to make a decision on whether to close the school on December 5.