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Upper Norwood girls' school could become academy

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"UNACCEPTABLE" exam results at an Upper Norwood girls' school have led to steps to turn it into an academy.

The plans to seek an academy sponsor for Westwood Girls' College are being led by Croydon Council but also have the backing of the school's governing body.

Councillor Tim Pollard, the council's cabinet member for children, families and learners, said the aim will be to press the Department for Education (DfE) to move rapidly to change the status of the school.

Westwood has had problems since 2010 when the council appointed an interim governing body to run the school after concerns over how it was being run.

Initially, the Spurgeon Road school made progress under new head Karen Benton, but this year results dropped back, with just 36 per cent of pupils achieving five A* to C GCSE grades in subjects including maths and English.

The total was 30 per cent behind the Croydon average and prompted the council's decision to ask the DfE to find an academy sponsor.

Problems were exacerbated by Ms Benton suffering serious medical problems and other sickness among senior teaching staff.

Cllr Pollard said: "The results this year are, frankly, unacceptable and we need to make a more fundamental management change than we previously thought to improve the school.

"If we don't do something about this school, the Government will."

Cllr Pollard said the council supported the academy idea because it believed a sponsor with a chain of other schools would have the flexibility to draft in experience and resources to help turn Westwood's fortunes round.

He said: "The message we are sending to the DfE is that we need real changes right now."

He added that one possibility a new academy sponsor could look at would be to turn Westwood into a mixed school, helping address the shortage of places for boys in the north of the borough.

John Troake, one of Westwood's governors, said the board had tried initially to solve problems by working with an independent trust, involving schools from just across the border in Bromley.

But following operational difficulties which, according to Mr Troake, led to the trust "overstretching itself", the trust had now been dissolved.

Mr Troake said: "At our meeting on November 16 we decided that to move forward as an academy was the best option for the school."

Upper Norwood girls' school could become academy


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