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  • Luke Johnston

Whitehaven Academy confirms new sponsor

Cumbria Education Trust (CET) has been confirmed by the Secretary of State as the new sponsor of The Whitehaven Academy following a resolution that was passed by CET’s Board of Trustees. Since being named as the DfE’s preferred sponsor in March, the CET team has worked closely with the Headteacher and staff at The Whitehaven Academy during a comprehensive due diligence process to ensure, that as a Trust, it has the necessary resources and capacity to support the academy after conversion. During the process, CET’s Chief Executive Lorrayne Hughes, along with a team of experienced leaders from the Trust and partner organisations, have been working with The Whitehaven Academy to initiate the start of the school improvement journey. In addition, emergency financial support secured from the Strategic School Improvement Fund has been targeted at providing resources, such as revision material that were urgently needed, data analysis software to effectively evaluate and track student’s progress, as well as specialist staff to support school improvement. Speaking about the announcement, Lorrayne Hughes, Chief Executive of Cumbria Education Trust said: “I am really looking forward to welcoming The Whitehaven Academy into the Trust. It seems to have been a long journey to get to this point, but we are nearly there now. I am hopeful that conversion will take place in November, CET will continue to work closely with the school until then.” “Our first priority will be a relentless focus on school improvement to ensure that every young person can reach their potential. We will be looking to raise aspirations so that all students will strive to ‘be the best they can be’ – the Trust’s motto. The support we have received from the DfE and Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) will ensure that we are able to continue on the improvement journey with pace.” “I would also like to thank our key partners including West Lakes Teaching School Alliance, Western Lakes Teaching Alliance and the Local Authority for all their help and continued support.” The staff at The Whitehaven Academy will be welcomed into CET when they join the 400+ employees from CET’s other six schools at their annual conference on 3 September at Carlisle Racecourse. Chair of AMC at The Whitehaven Academy, George Beveridge, said: “It has been a challenging time for the academy, but the resilience shown by the students and staff has been commendable. We look forward to working with CET until conversion, when a new Local Advisory Board will be established. The continuing focus will be to develop The Whitehaven Academy into the school of choice for its local children.” In a letter to parents, Headteacher Warren Turner said: “I am extremely pleased that we are going to be part of CET’s family of schools and I am confident that staff, students and parents will see this decision as a positive outcome. I am determined to ensure that the young people who attend The Whitehaven Academy have access to an improving education and I know that Cumbria Education Trust is committed to the academy and education provision in Cumbria. We will benefit greatly from this new and exciting partnership.” The DfE is making a substantial capital investment, to give a much-needed fresh start for all at The Whitehaven Academy. This will include a feasibility study on the school site, which will start very soon. This involves extensive surveys and design work, which will help to determine the improvements required for the school estate. It is hoped that this study will be completed in the autumn term. The project will see the majority of the existing school buildings demolished and rebuilt, and will be delivered by ESFA Capital, with CET involved throughout the design and construction phase. It is the Trust’s intention to fully involve students, staff and parents throughout this phase. The ESFA Capital aim to complete the new buildings by December 2020. CET is delighted that The Whitehaven Academy is getting the capital investment it needs, however as the new building construction is some time away, CET will take the lead and continue to work with ESFA Capital on an agreed programme of works that will ensure that the existing buildings are safe, warm and water tight until the new build is ready for occupation. CET hopes to have more information to share about the project during the autumn term. In response to this news Councillor Sue Sanderson and Trudy Harrison, MP both gave their response: – Cllr Sue Sanderson, Cumbria County Council Cabinet Member for Schools and Learning, said: “This is excellent news for pupils and the whole community. It has taken a long time, with much hard work from many people, to get to this point but we now have a sponsor everyone can have confidence in and the commitment from government to fund the replacement of the current school buildings. This is the outcome everyone wanted and I’m delighted that pupils will now have the best possible chance to thrive. The council is committed to continuing its support for the school and I wish it every success as it starts an exciting new chapter.” Trudy Harrison, MP for Copeland said: “This is a brilliant news day for The Whitehaven Academy, at long last we are finally seeing the bright light in what can only be described as a very dark tunnel.” “Today signifies a new day for The Whitehaven Academy with a sponsor who I am personally excited about, the security of a new school being built, and an education that our students deserve to ensure their bright futures are realised in Copeland.” 

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