Deal struck for academy

Leigh CE Primary, in Henrietta Street, which is set to be acquired for 300,000 by Wigan Council
Leigh CE Primary, in Henrietta Street, which is set to be acquired for 300,000 by Wigan Council

A deal has been struck to pay £300,000 for a borough primary school - to pave the way for it to become an academy.

Leigh CE Primary has been rated as ‘inadequate’ by the education watchdog Ofsted since October 2016.

And in the Henrietta Street school’s latest progres report, issued last February, their improvement plan was ruled to be “not fit for purpose”.

This has paved the way for Leigh CE to become part of The Wings Multi-Academy Trust, which already features St Mark’s Newtown and Atherton St George’s primary schools.

But in order for the transfer to take place, Wigan Council must be in a position to offer the school buildings and surrounding land to the trust.

Councillors have been told that when the authority first leased the site from the parochial church council, the rent stood at £50 per year.

For the last expired lease though, the education department was expected to find £26,650 every year.

The proposed rent, by the church council, going forward, is said to be £35,000.

Proposals have now been ratified by Coun Jenny Bullen, the council’s portfolio holder for children and young people’s services, to offer £300,000 from the capital budget to fund the acquisition.

James Winterbottom, the council’s children and families director, said in a report: “The intention to resolve this has become more sharply focused by the Ofsted inspection outcome in July 2016, which placed the school into an Ofsted category of concern.

“Due to current government policy this judgement has subsequently placed the school under a compulsory academy order and the local authority is obliged to provide the appropriate buildings and tenure for this purpose.”

Under the new arrangements, the school site will be offered to the academy trust at a peppercorn rate for 125 years.

The original inspection report for Leigh CE Primary bridged the period between the school operating at Leigh CE Juniors.

An Ofsted inspector, in the latest review, said: ““The most able pupils are not challenged to achieve as well as they can.”

Attendance had declined, since a previous inspection, and the proportion of persistent absentees had also risen.