Beds, Herts & Bucks

Houghton Regis Academy: Parents concern over possible closure

Houghton Regis Academy
Image caption The Houghton Regis Academy could close by August 2021

An "inadequate" rated school could close down because new housing that would have allowed it to grow has not been built, an academies trust claimed.

The trust that runs Houghton Regis Academy in Bedfordshire told parents it was unviable due to low pupil numbers.

It said the building of 7,500 homes had not happened quickly enough.

Central Bedfordshire Council, which does not run the school, said it would advise the government it should not close until a new school is built.

Houghton Regis Academy took over an existing school in 2012 as a middle school for years 5-8 and converted to a secondary school for years 7-11 in 2015, with a view to providing places for the new housing estates.

Image caption The trust which runs the school said it had trouble recruiting and keeping a "sufficient number of high quality specialist staff"

Ofsted rated the school as inadequate during its last inspection in January 2019, when it had 317 pupils - roughly half its capacity.

Greenwood Academies Trust, which runs the school, said "the school is well below capacity because a housing development due have been built nearby has not taken place".

It wrote to parents telling them closure by summer 2021 was "under consideration" adding that pupil numbers were too low to "enable the recruitment and retention of a sufficient number of high quality specialist staff". It also said the school had a deficit of more than £1.1m.

It said the Department for Education (DfE) had agreed to the request "in principle" and there would be a period of consultation.

Community impact

Clare Copleston, parent of a year 9 pupil, said: "If this new school isn't built and the current school closes, where will we put the children?"

Councillor Sue Clark, responsible for education at the council, said "potential closure is unsettling for everyone" and it had "accelerated the need to bring forward building a new school".

"We will be seeking authority to progress with this on the Kingsland campus at Executive next month," she said.

She said they would be "advising the DfE that Houghton Regis Academy should not close until we can lead on building a new school".

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