School set to receive £7m from academy

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THE CHARITY looking to take over Bennerley Business College in September has announced this week that it has secured £7.2m for refurbishment of the school.

But the controversial proposals for the Cotmanhay school put forward by Ormiston Trust are not set in stone until the Government Department for Education gives the bid the go-ahead.

The trust has said that the cash will be spent on a part rebuild and refurbishment of the century-old school buildings.

Managing Director of Ormiston, Joyce Hodgetts, said: “These funds will go towards creating a top class educational environment and will make a substantial difference to the current buildings.

“We’re delighted that this has been allocated, the students here deserve to have a great environment, which we can now create.”

At a consultation event on Tuesday, a parent, who did not want to be named, said: “To be honest I don’t think Bennerley would have been able to carry on without this money, it would be surviving on borrowed time.

“The academy sounds like it’s going to make a difference to the school but by no means is this a failing school now, results are up year-on-year and there’s been massive improvements.”

A mum in the process of deciding which school to send her daughter to said: “I was seriously considering moving out of the area so I could send my daughter to Ilkeston School or Kirk Hallam before this meeting tonight.

“But after what’s been said I’m 99 per cent sure I’ll be staying put.”

Chair of governors Cllr Brian Lucas and acting headteacher Fiona Stevenson have sent out letters to parents asking for their views as part of the formal consultation, which ends on March 18.

The letter has assured parents that the changes would not mean Bennerley would become a selective school and it would ‘continue to be part of the local network of schools’ – something disputed by the National Union of Teachers.

Kirk Hallam Community College announced earlier this year that it plans to convert to an academy in September.

NUT county secretary John Holmes said: “Becoming independent of the local authority takes them out of the network of local schools.”

“Two schools out of three being run independently is not good news for Ilkeston School.”

Ormiston has also appointed a principal for the new academy – Eddie de Middelaer – who will take over in September if the bid is successful.

He is currently executive principal of Gedling School, which has been threatened with closure, and was principal of Lutterworth College in Leicestershire until 2010.

He said: “I am looking forward to working at the new Ormiston Academy in Ilkeston.

“I am excited by the opportunity to be principal at a school that has the drive and ambition to become outstanding and innovative.”

Ormiston Trust currently has eleven academies open in the UK and, if the bid is successful, Bennerley will be one of four the trust is planning to open in September.

A decision is expected to be made before the Easter break.