Kinsley Academy may officially be less than three years old, but its redbrick buildings stand as a reminder that there has been a primary school here, serving this rural, former mining community in West Yorkshire, for well over 100 years. Jade Garfitt didn’t hesitate to send her son, aged five, to the school: Kinsley born and bred, she felt she’d got an excellent education there herself.
Kinsley is part of a wave of schools that have converted into academies – state-funded but independent of local authority control. In 2015, it left the auspices of Wakefield council to become Kinsley Academy, joining one of the hundreds of charitable companies the government calls “multi-academy trusts”, which between them run thousands of schools across England. This is a key plank of the government’s schools strategy under which high-performing schools in each trust help the struggling ones improve.
But in Kinsley, the reverse has happened. Lauded by Ofsted a few months before it joined the Wakefield City Academies Trust, Kinsley has seen standards plummet to well below the national average. “I’ve had to go to teachers to ask for homework. I’ve had to argue with them to change my son’s reading books. I’ve taught him all his times tables at home,” Sarah Jones, who has two children at the school, tells me.