THE academy trust which ran Parkfield School ‘neglected’ it before announcing it plans to close it down, members of the school community have said.

According to parents and members of the school community, the school made little effort to increase pupil numbers at the school, which it said was the reason for the closure.

Parent Mrs Taylor said the trust had not been proactive in going to primary schools, and questioned the perceived lack of effort to bring children into the school.

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Mrs Taylor questioned the decision to close, saying: “It's the newest [school], it's bright, it's airy.

“The package is there. There is no reason other than neglect that that school has not thrived.”

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Another member of the school community, who wished to remain anonymous, said Reach South had not advertised the school enough and had made minimal effort to publicise the school throughout the area.

At the start of the year, the trust removed the local governing body and replaced it with an improvement board, which took over in March.

This, the trust said in a letter to parents, would help enhance expertise, focus on improving standards, underline accountability and transparency while improving community engagement.

However, the school community member said the trust informed the governors of this change in the first meeting after governors discussed the possibility of finding a new trust to take over the school.

“That board took over on March 4,” she said.

“Clearly, they haven't had enough time to do anything. I mean, it's June, so in three months they took over the governing body and apparently, they've tried to make improvements and failed, and then they've done this whole process [of proposing to close the school], which takes time.”

(Image: Newsquest)

She believes that the decision was made by the school to close earlier this year, demonstrated by a lack of advertising for a new headteacher position, as the current interim head is set to leave the school at the end of the academic year.

She said the process to hire the head would have taken longer than the time available from when the board took over in March, for the new head to take over in September.

She and Mrs Taylor both highlighted the need for the school with the new housing estates being built in Christchurch and West Parley, with BCP Council figures showing all other secondary schools in Christchurch are currently full.

Another parent, Carly, said she felt ‘incredibly let down’ by the trust and that ‘poor management’ had caused the current situation, with the trust showing ‘no empathy’ to the staff and children.

A spokesperson for Reach South said: “The process to close a school is obviously a highly sensitive one and takes time for government officials to work through. Throughout the process we have been very mindful of sharing information when all parties involved are prepared and in agreement.

“Both the school and Reach South have always made efforts to promote the school. During the course of the current school year this has included an open day, individual tours for prospective parents and a presence on social media. We also organised an event with the airport and Cranfield University focused on skills and future careers that gained publicity for the school and featured on national television. However, in spite of these efforts over a number of years, pupil admissions have continued to fall over a period extending several years.

“In terms of wider options explored, these included the adoption of a UTC “sleeve” to give the school a greater sense of identity and distinctiveness. We were also keen to explore the idea of adding SEND provision to the school. However, neither of these or other initiatives were possible to progress due to capital investment not being available for the UTC sleeve option and SEND option was not taken forward by the council.

“Our top priority has been working closely with BCP to identify a place in a “good” school in the local area for every child. Whilst this is something that the council is leading on, we can confirm that there are places for every pupil, and we and BCP will now work with families to support them through this process.”