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UPDATED: The Isle of Wight Council’s Lead Member for Children’s Services is demanding answers about funding for Sandown Bay Academy and suggesting the current sponsors, Academies Enterprise Trust (AET), should be replaced.

At a recent meeting of the Attainment and Education Support Panel, concerns were expressed about the current performance of the school with weak outcomes in 2016. Concerns about student behaviour and a lack of confidence from the local community were also highlighted.

The meeting has led to Councillor Chris Whitehouse sending a letter to the Chief Executive Officer of the Academies Enterprise Trust (AET), in which he claims:

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“There are allegations being made in the community that the Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) is removing £850,000 over a two year period from the budget of Sandown to cross subsidise AET activity elsewhere in the academy chain”

The Conservative councillor has asked AET for assurances that this will not happen.

Speaking today, Cllr Whitehouse explains:

“Performance at Sandown Bay Academy is simply not good enough. AET, the organisation that is responsible for running the Academy, should be investing every penny in driving up education standards and improving outcomes for the students who attend the school. So, I have written to AET’s Chief Executive, Julian Drinkall, demanding answers.”

Councillor Whitehouse has previously raised his concerns with Government Ministers, and adds:

“I met privately with a previous Minister for Schools to express my deep concern about the underperformance of AET. In my view, the organisation is simply not up to the job and should be relieved of its responsibilities and replaced by a sponsor that can deliver the improvements and expertise that Sandown Bay Academy needs. I am, therefore, copying my letter today to the current Minister for Schools, Rt Hon Nick Gibb MP, the Island MP, Andrew Turner, and the Regional Schools Commissioner, Dominic Herrington.

“The time for talking about this problem and sweeping it under the carpet is over. It’s time the Minister took action.”

UPDATE @ 19:35 – In a statement issued this evening, AET have denied Cllr Whitehouse’s claims.

A spokesperson has told Island Echo:

“We can absolutely refute the allegation that AET is removing funds from Sandown Bay to cross-subsidise activities elsewhere in the group.

Sandown Bay is working within a very difficult funding environment.  The current funding crisis for education has been widely reported, and schools right across the country are experiencing severe difficulties as a result.  On the Isle of Wight these problems are exacerbated by over-capacity, as a result of which Sandown Bay, in common with several other schools on the island, is experiencing student numbers which have fallen by 10% per year over the past three years, and are predicted to continue declining.

“Within this difficult context, Sandown Bay has needed to make some very tough decisions, and AET has been working closely with the Head and Governors to agree restructuring plans. £850,000 was the original level of savings recommended, in the light of current and projected pupil numbers, in order to get the school in good financial shape.

“Following discussions with the Head, the current target is less than £250,000. Far from recommending these savings to cross-subsidise activities elsewhere in AET, however, as has been alleged, they are being made in order to focus resources where they are needed in the school. Our priority, and that of Sandown Bay, is on educational performance and on ensuring the best possible outcomes for the children and the families we serve.

“Meanwhile, therefore, we have been working very closely with the Head and Governors of Sandown Bay on a programme to improve performance.  We will continue to give them every support”.

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