Academy trust in line to start running two local secondary schools

A trade union has raised concerns over the move but its allegations have drawn a sharp response from the education organisation.
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The Outwood Grange Academy Trust (OGAT) is set to begin running Hindley High School and Haydock High School from September.

Academy trusts were sought to sponsor the secondary schools after they were given ratings of inadequate by Ofsted and OGAT stepped forward to add them to the 25 secondary schools it already has in its portfolio.

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The trade union’s allegations, though, have been strongly refuted by the trust, which says it is excited about its arrival in Wigan and delivering higher-quality standards in the classrooms at Hindley and Haydock.

OGAT chief executive principal for secondary academies Julie Slater said: “We’ve got a track record of turning around struggling schools and have lots of experience in this area.

“I’m from Bolton and I know the Hindley Green area quite well so it feels like I’m coming home.

“I’ve been extremely warmly welcomed in the borough and I’m keen to move quickly because the children at Hindley are incredible. The staff are great as well and I’m looking forward to working more closely with them.

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“Our aspirations are very high and we transform schools quickly, which is a priority when you’ve got children attending inadequate schools.”

OGAT says Hindley and Haydock will be the first two schools in its Outwood West area, with its existing organisation divided into north, central and south groups.

It is likely the schools will be renamed Outwood Academy Hindley and Outwood Academy Haydock from September.

The prospect of OGAT taking charge at Hindley, though, has not been universally welcomed, with Unison North West, which represents school support staff, expressing some major reservations about its arrival in the borough.

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The trade union’s North West lead schools organiser Keith Bradley said: “We are deeply concerned by the prospect of OGAT taking over Hindley High School. OGAT do not currently have any schools in the North West and we are unconvinced about the motivation behind their new plan to expand into our region.

“At a recent meeting, OGAT stated that if the Trust are unable to secure funding for building work from the Government then they intend to ‘walk away’ from plans to take over schools in the North West.

“This statement calls into question whether this takeover is for the benefit of Wigan schoolchildren or in order to boost the Trust’s bottom-line.

“If funds are required to invest in our local schools, why doesn’t the Government provide our local authority with the money needed, rather than be held to ransom by a Trust with no connection to the local area?

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“As a trade union of school support staff, we are worried about the impact that the proposes OGAT takeover would have on Hindley High staff members.

“We have seen job losses and cuts to pay and conditions in other regions and any suggestion of applying the same strategy in the North West would be met by fierce resistance.”

The union’s concerns, though, have been strongly rebuffed by OGAT.

A spokesperson said: “We are disappointed by the Unison comment and because of a number of factors, most notably the inaccuracies within it and the questioning of our motives, especially given the positive reception we have received on the ground from the staff, students and parents at Hindley High School which is strangely at odds with Unison’s view.

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“We work very well with trade unions and have excellent relations with them at the Trust and therefore again this comment is at odds with the conversations we have.

“As a Trust we believe every child deserves the best education possible and we are proud of our track record of success in turning around many schools that were in special measures and in doing so improving the life chances for the students of these schools.

“We believe in putting students first and this means placing students at the core of every decision we make to ensure we only make decisions that will benefit them. This is fundamental to everything we do.

“Ultimately, we are excited about the prospect of working with the local community to transform Hindley High School, to help the students fulfil their potential and play an active role in society.

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“We are committed to the school and community and the leaders within the Trust who are working with Hindley are all local to the region.“

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