Mirfield school to cut pupil numbers by almost a third

Castle Hall Academy in Mirfield says it will cut pupil numbers by almost a third – from 900 to 650 – due to “ongoing surplus provision” in Kirklees.

Monday, 21st June 2021, 12:00 pm
Castle Hall Academy in Mirfield
Castle Hall Academy in Mirfield

Bosses say reducing the pupil admission number – or PAN – will allow the school to develop “a sustainable model of learning”.

They have pledged not to sell any buildings or land where extra space is created.

The school, which is part of the Impact Education Multi Academy Trust, has not met its admission number of 180 pupils per year for a decade.

In 2010-11 the roll was 170 but by 2020-21 admissions had declined to just 123 youngsters.

As a result, trustees and governors have decided to reduce the PAN from 180 to 130 with effect from September 2022. They say the reduction of 50 places a year is “a realistic proposal” and that there are still enough places in the system even with the change.

They have now begun five weeks of consultations with stakeholders such as Kirklees Council as well as parents, staff, unions, and feeder schools.

In a letter Mick Kay, chief executive for Impact Education MAT, and Phil Shire, chair of governors, said they would work with education chiefs on Kirklees Council to ensure there are sufficient secondary school places for pupils in the area.

Among their reasons was that the school’s reputation had been adversely affected by an Ofsted report that gave it an overall rating of inadequate following an inspection in November 2016.

In a sharply critical report, inspectors said teachers’ expectations of pupils were not high enough, bullying was going unreported, attendance levels were poor, behaviour in class was not up to scratch and careers advice was ineffective.

In their letter Mr Kay and Mr Shire said: “Due to the poor Ofsted judgement of the predecessor school, there was a perception that the academy may not be the right choice for families and the academy cannot/does not provide the best education.

“Since joining the trust in September 2018, the academy has moved from strength to strength and the academy is awaiting its first Ofsted inspection to demonstrate the fantastic progress the academy has made.”

They also say that fluctuations in numbers hinder long-term planning and that the lack of a priority admission area is an added challenge.

They also have ambitions to return the academy to “at least” a good rating from Ofsted.

They added: “Growth in pupil numbers across Kirklees peaks in 2023 when numbers are expected to reduce and whilst there are some planned housing developments in nearby areas the local authority do not believe there is a need for any new academy and that the numbers can be accommodated within existing academy capacity.

“We do not believe that our proposal to reduce the PAN will have any detrimental effect on pupil choice and that the academy can (and will) continue to meet the needs of all learners and families.”

The consultation runs until July 26. Visit www.i-mat.org.uk/our-academies for more details and on online survey.

A meeting will be held on July 1 at Castle Hall Academy at 6pm to discuss the proposals.