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The Corporation

Posted: 26/01/10

People have say on Sutton academy plans

People have had their say on proposals to turn Sutton Centre Community College into an academy.

West Nottinghamshire College has announced the results of a major consultation that sought people’s views on what form the proposed academy should take.

The consultation took place over four weeks (16 November to 11 December) and was run by West Nottinghamshire College, which would be the academy’s lead sponsor, and Tribal, specialist consultants appointed by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF).

It involved sending out more than 5,000 brochures, 3,000 leaflets and 2,000 letters to Sutton Centre staff, students, parents, governors and other stakeholders including residents, businesses and councillors.

A series of meetings and drop-in sessions were also held to discuss the innovative plans, which would transform secondary education in Sutton-in-Ashfield, while a special website was set up to provide details and seek people’s views.

People could also give comments via a pre-paid questionnaire, telephone hotline, text messaging service or email.

They were asked whether they agreed that the proposed academy should retain Sutton Centre’s specialisms of business, enterprise and the arts; whether it should maintain the school’s current student catchment area and admissions arrangements, and whether a uniform should be introduced at the academy.

People were also asked whether or not they agreed that most academy students should start studying for their GCSEs in year 9, as well as their preference for the academy’s name.

A total of 301 written responses were received. The results included:

  • Almost all Sutton Centre staff that responded (98%), along with the majority of parents and governors (80%) and students (66%), agreed that the academy should retain the school’s existing specialisms of business, enterprise and the arts.
  • Similarly, most staff (96%), parents and governors (90%), and students (66%) would like it to keep the same catchment area and admissions arrangements as the current school.
  • The majority of parents and governors (83%) also agreed that most students at the academy should start their GCSEs in year 9 – a view shared by 60% of staff. Students, however, showed the least support for this proposal (44%).
  • Similarly, the proposal to introduce a uniform at the academy was not supported by the majority of students (36% agreed, 64% disagreed), although members of the School Council – the students’ democratic body – generally welcomed the proposal, providing student representatives were involved in its design. However, 62% of staff and 59% of parents and governors were in favour of a uniform.

People also had their say on the name for the academy – with ‘Sutton Community Academy’ chosen by the college as the preferred name; to reflect the academy’s ethos, identity and place in the community, following responses and feedback.

Many of those supporting the plans did so on condition that the existing school was replaced by a new academy building, and that Sutton Centre’s key strengths were retained and its extensive adult education provision continued.

Meanwhile, Nottinghamshire County Council ran a separate consultation process about whether the school should close in September and be replaced by an academy.

There were 441 responses to the county council’s consultation, which closed on 18 December. The majority of people taking part were in favour of the proposals, with the exception of adult learners, who were worried the creation of an academy would threaten the school’s adult education provision.

A final decision on whether Sutton Centre becomes an academy will be made by the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families later this year.

If approved, Sutton Community Academy would open its doors in September 2010 – initially in the existing school buildings. However, the multi-million pound building programme, which would equip the academy with the latest technology and equipment, forms a key part of the plans.

Asha Khemka OBE, principal and chief executive of West Nottinghamshire College, said: “I thank everybody for sparing the time to answer questions and give their views. It’s encouraging that the majority support the creation of an academy and recognise the transformational affect it will have on the future of education in Sutton.

“There are understandably some concerns among current students, particularly adult learners, about how the proposals will affect them.

“However, it’s clear that many see this as a unique opportunity to build on the school’s strengths and create an environment that raises aspirations and helps people to achieve their full potential, aided by state-of-the-art new academy buildings.

“We are absolutely committed to ensuring the academy remains at the heart of the community and to preserving the school’s long-established adult education provision.

"In the meantime we’re continuing to work with the county council and the DCSF to move the proposals forward.”

The full consultation report by Tribal can be found at www.suttonacademy.org.uk