PORTSMOUTH’S only academy has been accused by secondary school headteachers of breaking an agreement to take on troubled pupils who need a fresh start.
Charter Academy, which took over failing St Luke’s in September 2009, has been criticised for ‘engineering’ its pupil intake by palming off problem kids on to other schools – but refusing to accept similar youngsters from other schools.
Academy’s sponsor ARK has vehemently denied the charge, claiming it opted out of the system in December after being forced to take a disproportionately high number of children from neighbouring schools with problems.
However Portsmouth City Council is so worried it has reported the issue to the Secretary of State for Education.
Mike Smith, speaking on behalf of all his colleagues as chairman of Portsmouth’s secondary heads, said: ‘What Charter is doing is outrageous.
‘When it first became an academy we were given assurances it would fully co-operate and wanted to work with Portsmouth schools. That has turned out to be a hollow sham.
‘A fresh start can make a real difference to a child, but Charter realises it can’t get the exam results it predicted and is now manipulating its school population make its figures look better.’
Each month about five secondary schoolchildren across Portsmouth who are persistently disruptive, aggressive or refuse to play by school rules are transferred to other schools in what are known as ‘managed moves’.
The council says in 2009/10 Charter removed five pupils, accepted two and refused one.
And last year it moved on seven pupils, accepted one and refused two.
Niel McLeod, head of Miltoncross – which is set to become an academy – called Charter’s actions ‘unacceptable’.
He added: ‘Our moral duty in doing the job is to look after all the children in the city between us.
‘Even as an academy we will continue to do that.’
Leader of the council Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘Charter is beginning to look like the worst sort of academy – the kind that doesn’t want to work with anybody else and just wants to dump more difficult pupils on to other schools.
‘We are doing everything in our power to get them to play ball.’
Lesley Smith, spokeswoman for ARK, said the council’s figures were wrong, and that Charter moved on five pupils and accepted five pupils in 2009/10.
She added: ‘In September 2010 we set up a facility for children needing additional help and have not sent out any children to other schools since then.
‘Charter has a disproportionately high number of hard-to-place students, through managed moves, which in June stood at 3.57 per cent compared with the other schools. We feel this is unfair and have decided to opt out until we are confident the managed moves are more fairly distributed.
‘Charter is serving local children and it is not the case that we are refusing to participate.’