By Ken Muller
Islington MP, Emily Thornberry, wrote to the Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, expressing concerns about developments at what was then STEM 6 calling for ‘urgent action’ to rescue this academy’.
Not entirely, satisfied by the response she received from Lord Nash (on behalf of Nicky Morgan) she wrote back to him expressing further concern about ‘considerable difficulties’ at Tech City, including the resignation of seven teachers (half the teaching staff) this term and the ‘little progress towards improving working arrangements and performance management’.
Perhaps at least as worrying to the general public, was another issue she raised in her letter: the apparent misuse of public funds:
I remain concerned that STEM [Academy Education Trust] has been permitted to start a school at huge public expense which is failing to deliver an acceptable service to inner-city pupils. A further concern is STEM’s former plans to expand their work into South London. – I understand that Norwood Police Station was purchased by DCLG in 2014, with the expectation that STEM would open a second Academy there in September 2015
However, after gaining the DfE approval, and recruiting some members of staff and some pupils, STEM decided to abandon this project, and the building remains empty. This does cause me considerable concern – a public asset which could have provided much-needed affordable housing or other facilities of use to the local community remains empty two years after the mayor closed the police station.
I would appreciate your further comments on the DfE’s relationship with the STEM Academy Education Trust –what assessment of the Trust’s plans were carried out before they were permitted to set up an academy in my constituency. Why was the Trust allocated another public building when it had no track record of delivering good quality education? Will the Trust be held liable for any costs in relation to the South Norwood building?
This matter has also taken up by London Assembly Member, Fiona Twycross, who wrote to DCLG Secretary of State, Greg Clark, about the abandoned Norwood academy project on 20 November:
It seems to me that there should have been more adequate checks to ensure the school site was viable. Did STEM then incur any costs following their last minute decision to walk away from opening a school here?
I am concerned that this valuable public asset has now not been used since 2012. It seems to be a very poor use of public money to keep this site unused. Can you also outline the cost of keeping this site secure, and the total cost to date?
Tech City teachers will take strike
action on Tuesday 8th, Wednesday 9th, Tuesday 15th, Wednesday 16th and Thursday 17th December.
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