IN A massive victory for parent power, Tudor Grange Academy is consulting on returning to high school status and rejoining Redditch’s three tier education system.
The decision marks a dramatic U-turn for the Solihull-based Tudor Grange Academy Trust which four years ago ploughed ahead with bringing in a two tier system into Redditch despite widespread opposition across the town.
The move, which had the blessing of the then MP Karen Lumley and Schools Commissioner Pank Patel, was hugely disruptive, threatening the town’s established three tier system of infants, middle, and high school, and forcing many schools into defensive ‘pyramids’ to protect pupil numbers.
Ridgeway Middle School also made the leap, becoming a secondary school, and in the wake of the Tudor Grange decision Ridgeway headteacher Mike Bennett said they were still committed to the path they had chosen back in 2015.
At the time Mrs Lumley said ‘money was available’ for any school wishing to convert to two tier – that is primary up to Year 6 and secondary up to Year 7, and said that ‘parents would decide’.
Well since 2015 south Redditch parents have decided – in their hundreds – by rejecting the two tier system, with major consequences for Tudor Grange.
In 2016 just 19 pupils were earmarked to join the school at Year 7 out of an intake of 180. At Year 9 just 58 places out of 280 were taken.
A year later Year 7 numbers were so low the intake was cancelled, a pattern repeated this year, 2019.
The dramatic drop in pupil number has also had a major impact on the school’s finances, costing millions of pounds.
In the consultation document the school says:
“We recognise that our decision in 2014 to change the age range of the school was not what the local community wanted. We did not act on their preference for a three tier education system and we have learnt from this.
“We were of the view that the change of age range was educationally sound and especially important for more vulnerable students. Though our intention was positive, we have never won the support of the local community and we should have listened more to their views.”
The current head, Jodie Bolter, who was not in charge when the two tier system was introduced and who has striven hard to lift the school, said: “We have worked closely with the local community and schools over the last few years and as a result of this we believe we should revert back to a high school.
“We will remain a small community school enabling us to personalise learning for all and provide a caring and compassionate community.”
Three parents who have campaigned over the three tier issue, Rebecca Hyder, Nicki Farnes and Sharon Harvey said: “As a team of parents who worked hard to defend our three tier system we welcome this consultation for TGAR to revert to high school status.
“This is what the community stated as its preference with 92 per cent of respondents opposing the age change to secondary.
“We thank you for the acknowledgment of mistakes made in the past and now look forward to the future.
“We hope that TGAR changing back to three tier will lead to a cohesive schooling system across the pyramids with all schools working together.”
The consultation closing date is on Monday, October 21.
Tudor Grange is also consulting on two other major issues:
1) The refurbishment of the Kingsley Sports Centre roof and facilities allowing for the re-opening of the swimming pool for community use, marking the start of a programme of investment in the improvement of the TGAR site.
2) Expansion of the school’s highly successful Mainstream Autism Base to include new specialist facilities in a dedicated building.
The consultation is available on the school’s website or here: https://www.redditch.tgacademy.org.uk/media/consultation/
Ridgeway Academy also made the leap to two tier in 2015.
This week Headteacher Mike Bennett said: “The decision to take the jump from Middle to Secondary was not taken lightly.
“A lot of thought and planning has been invested in to this.
“As part of this process we made a commitment to the students, families and local community that we serve to fulfil the approved changes.
“Since the conversion, we have been able to recruit viable numbers for us to deliver a broad and balanced Secondary curriculum whist still retaining our Primary years.
“The Governing Bodies and staff are committed to the plans and changes we have implemented.
“It is very much business as usual here.”