Urgent bid to find a backer as Havant Academy plunges into turmoil

TROUBLED Havant Academy, formerly Staunton Community Sports College
TROUBLED Havant Academy, formerly Staunton Community Sports College

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HAMPSHIRE’S first academy has been thrown into turmoil after losing its lead sponsor - just one year after it opened.

Havant Academy, which replaced the failing Staunton Community Sports College in September 2010, is now seeking a new backer after South Downs College in Waterlooville pulled out.

South Downs’ sponsorship was not a financial one but was key to establishing and sustaining the academy.

Its principal Michael Oakes, who acted as the academy’s chair of governors, lent his business expertise and helped create opportunities for school-leavers moving into further education.

Mr Oakes now says he is confident a replacement will be found before Christmas.

The 63-year-old who led the setting up of the academy with the support of Hampshire County Council as co-sponsors, insisted he had never planned to stay with the academy in the long term

But a source at the academy told The News that news of his departure came as a shock.

Mr Oakes said ‘It was never my intention to stay long term with Havant Academy.

‘I got involved to rescue the opportunities of young people in the community – I think if I hadn’t done what I did the school would have probably closed. But now I’m retiring after more than 23 years as principal and whoever takes over as principal has to focus on South Downs.

‘We will find a sponsor before Christmas, I’m sure of it. We’re working closely with the Department for Education and the local authority but ultimately the decision will rest with the secretary of state.’

Just 23 per cent of pupils at the academy achieved five good GCSEs with English and maths this summer – a drop from 27 per cent pass rate the previous year, when the school was still run by the local authority.

Mr Oakes said: ‘Of course I would have liked to have achieved a major improvement in exam results in 12 months, but I don’t see that directly as the college’s responsibility. It is very much down to the school.

‘There is a cohort of students who haven’t done as well as they should have.

‘Now I think there needs to be rigorous support and development particularly in English and maths.

‘Hampshire and myself and looking at a number of sponsors at the moment.

‘It is absolutely clear the children in the community deserve a really good start. That’s the single purpose of the academy.

‘I recognise the exam results that came through this year don’t achieve that but they have to in future.

‘No educational institution has a right to survive unless it is doing its job well.

I’m hoping in future the results will improve.’

Havant Academy is currently led by principal Julie Taylor and interim chairman Brian Pope, Havant’s education director. It will continue to be co-sponsored by the county council.