Secondary education looks set to continue in Sandown Bay after the Department for Education provided conditional in-principle agreement to the closure of Sandown Bay Academy. This paves the way for the Isle of Wight Council to commence the process of setting up an all through school for students aged 4 to 16 encompassing The Bay CE Primary School.

This decision will be widely welcomed in Sandown as it was the preferred option of the overwhelming majority of parents and students in the consultation processes launched by the council and Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) earlier this year. The move comes after intense lobbying from the council and MP Bob Seely, and it means education will continue in The Bay area.

Paul Brading, Cabinet member for children’s services for the Isle of Wight Council has today (Friday) said:

“This is fantastic news for the Bay, for pupils, for parents and for the Isle of Wight.

“It should give us the chance to transform secondary outcomes using the existing secondary school site and The Bay CE Primary School to make Sandown a centre of educational excellence.

“A tremendous amount of work has taken place to get us to this position. There is much more to do though as we put our plans together towards creating the all through school. The next step will be a formal consultation process that must take place before The Bay CE Primary can be expanded. That will take place before Christmas. The Minister will make his final decision after that statutory process has been concluded.”

In the meantime, the council will work closely with AET to ensure a smooth transition to the new arrangements which take effect from 31st August 2018. Both the Isle of Wight Council and AET are committed to working in partnership to ensure that current students have access to high quality education.

Cllr Brading has continued:

“The main focus has to be the students’ education and it is important that leaders of the Bay CE Primary, AET, the Church of England Diocese and the Isle of Wight Council work hand in glove to keep the focus on improving the quality of education and making sure that students attain highly”.

Further discussions are taking place on a range of other issues such as post-16 education and it is hoped that further announcements can be made on those in the forthcoming weeks.

Cllr Brading has thanked Bob Seely MP for his support and discussion at government level, and the governors at The Bay CE Primary for agreeing in principle to make this happen.

He adds:

“Most importantly, thanks must go to the whole Bay Community for all the tenacity and support parents and students have shown during what has been an unsettling time.

“The exciting challenge now is to deliver the excellent standards necessary to benefit our children, and the wider community. My aim is to make this the Island’s Flagship School by driving up standards and results. We all now stand poised to start an exciting journey to achieve the best possible education we can in the Bay area for our children.”

UPDATE @ 14:12 – Vix Lowthion, Green Party spokesperson for Education, has commented:

“It’s welcome news that a future for secondary education looks secured in Sandown – huge thank you to The Bay Primary school and this innovative solution!

“The failure of AET academy chain to care for Sandown Academy students and staff should be a warning to any school thinking of academisation. A school conversion to an academy does not provide security, accountability or improved standards. We need good, local, community schools.

“I’m hopeful that the news today is a boost for education in the Bay area. Well done staff, students and parents who fought so hard to keep their local school!”

UPDATE @ 14:20 – Island MP Bob Seely has said he is delighted with the decision:

“I’m delighted the Government has listened to Island residents, the Council and myself and made this important decision.  Getting the right result has been a priority for myself and the Council and is the result of half a dozen meetings with Government ministers to make sure that they understood the strength of feeling on this issue.

“This is a victory for everyone involved but particularly for parents in the Bay area who made it clear this is what they wanted.  Special thanks also goes to the Island’s Council, the cabinet member for education, Cllr Paul Brading, and the education officers for their critical work to get us to this point.

“However, it is important for us all to realise that this is not the end of a process but the beginning of one.  Now that the future of Sandown has been provisionally agreed, we now need to make sure that we collectively focus on driving up education standards across the Island.

“I understand there will now be a consultation before the expansion can happen. However, today is a strong step forward towards our goal of this school becoming a centre of excellence for education on our Island”.

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