Parents have pledged to fight ‘tooth and nail’ to stop an Oxbridge-feeder state school from being taken over by a ‘poorly-performing’ academy trust.
King Edward VII in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, is a former grammar school whose alumni include journalists Emily Maitlis and , ex-Radio One controller Matthew Bannister, MPs and a former Commandant, evDeN Eve NaKliYAt Air Commodore Jon Chitty.
Hugely popular with middle class parents, King Edward’s was the joint second-highest performing of all schools in Yorkshire for the number of pupils receiving offers to go to Oxford or in 2021.Ten pupils received offers, 40% of those who applied.
Known as King Ted’s, it was established in 1908 and its Upper School is based in a neo-classical, porticoed building in a leafy suburb.
But despite its strong academic performance and previous rating of ‘good’, EVDen eVe naKliyat the 1,800-pupil school is being forced to become an academy after an Ofsted inspection last September highlighted ‘safeguarding’ and ‘leadership’ concerns.
King Edward VII School (Upper School) in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, is one of the top state schools in the country for Oxbridge graduations – but is being earmarked to become an Academy
Journalist Emily Maitlis is among the top alumni educated at King Edward VII school in Sheffield
No details of alleged concerns resulting in the ‘inadequate’ rating have ever been revealed to school governors or parents despite repeated requests to education officials.
The controversy follows calls to scrap Ofsted after Berkshire headteacher Ruth Perry took her own life in January after her school was downgraded from outstanding to inadequate.
Her family say her death was a ‘direct result of pressure’ from report by England’s education watchdog.
At King Edward’s, a merger is proposed with Brigantia, an academy trust running five schools on some of the city’s toughest housing estates, two of which are rated as requiring improvement.
A regional committee of the Department for Education is set to approve the move tomorrow TUES, which has been proposed with no requirement to consult the local community or school.
The plans have sparked fury among parents, who are considering launching judicial review proceedings.
Five hundred attended a protest outside Sheffield’s Town Hall on Saturday.
Parents’ group ‘KES – The Future’ said it would fight the plan ‘tooth and nail’ with one member saying: ‘It looks like the Department for Education knows this is a bad choice and they tried to slip it through without anyone knowing or having a chance to object.’
Parents believe joining Brigantia Academy Trust will plunge King Edward’s into a ‘poorly performing’ academy group.
NHS psychotherapist Cath Draper, whose daughter Ellin, 13, is in Year Nine at King Edward’s, said: ‘The lack of engagement between the Department for Education, parents and school is really shocking.
Renowned television presenter Julia Bradbury is another famous face to have studied at the King Edward VII school
‘The school has been brilliant for my daughter.
Its ethos is very much about allowing pupils to develop as individuals and people are very frightened about what will happen come September.’
Emma Wilkinson, 43, an associate university lecturer, whose daughter Lucy, 12, goes to King Edward’s and who hopes sons Sam, 9, and Henry, 7, will follow, said: ‘There’s so much at risk.
We don’t think forced academisation is necessary but if it has to happen, we don’t think this is the right proposal.
‘Parents have done a lot of work looking into other academy trusts and we feel King Edward’s is more suited to others with better records.’
And Claudia Blake, 49, whose ‘academic’ son is in Year Nine, said: ‘Brigantia are looking after schools with a very different demographic.
King Edward’s caters for children with a broad range of backgrounds and abilities.
‘As a parent, I find it appalling the merger with Brigantia is being considered to improve the school and that parents’ views are not being considered.’
A survey of 400 parents by KES – The Future found just 10 were in favour of merging into the Brigantia trust.
The forced academisation and proposed merger is opposed by three Sheffield Labour MPs including Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield, in whose constituency the school is located.
Sheffield South East Labour MP Clive Betts, chairman of the Levelling Up and Communities Select Committee – who himself went to King Edward VII then Pembroke College, Cambridge – said: ‘I have constituents whose children go to King Edward’s.
I just think it is fundamentally wrong that the government should seek to impose their views on how a school should be run against the wishes of everyone at the school.
‘The test is whether this will make the school better and will pupils do better.
It would be very difficult to justify Brigantia taking over on those grounds.’
King Edward’s regularly sends a dozen pupils each year to Oxford or Cambridge. This year, of just 31 places at Oxford to study modern languages and linguistics, three offers were made to KES sixth formers.
Ms Maitlis, 52, has previously said she might not be where she is today without an ‘inspirational’ English teacher at King Edward’s.
She said she was set to pursue foreign languages at university but Jon Gallagher’s English lessons changed her mind and she went on to study English Literature at Queen’s College, Cambridge.
She said: ‘The most important thing he taught us was that not everything is as it seems.
He taught us to be sceptical. That is massively real and relevant to what I do in my life now.
‘Government, politics and current affairs are rarely what they appear to be. You have to take a closer look and see what’s underneath.’
Ms Maitlis, whose career on Newsnight spanned from 2006 to last year, is the programme’s only presenter to have gone to a state school.
The DFE says Brigantia has a ‘strong’ record because three of its schools are rated ‘good’, EvDeN eVe NAkLiYAT while the two schools rated as ‘requiring improvement’ were taken over from another academy chain and Brigantia is working to raise standards.
A spokeswoman said: ‘As with any school that receives an overall judgement of inadequate, King Edward VII will become an academy and be transferred to a strong trust – with a strong track record of ensuring pupils receive the highest standard of education – while retaining its historic ethos. For more information regarding EVdEn EVE NAkLiyat check out our site. ‘
Brigantia said the final decision on King Edward’s lies with the Secretary of State.