Robert Smyth Academy hit by shake-up

Robert Smyth Academy. (Picture: Andrew Carpenter/001399-47) ENGNNL00320130129175635
Robert Smyth Academy. (Picture: Andrew Carpenter/001399-47) ENGNNL00320130129175635

The shake-up in education in south Leicestershire has led to financial problems at Market Harborough’s Robert Smyth Academy, a report has revealed.

The report by the school’s Trustees says the Academy’s “very difficult financial position” has largely been created by age range changes in the area.

Under the old system, pupils progressed from 11-14 schools at Kibworth and Welland Park, Market Harborough, to Robert Smyth.

All three schools therefore had a predictable number of pupils.

Now all three compete for pupils at the 11-16 age range - and Robert Smyth has lost out, as more parents choose to keep their children at a familiar school for longer.

The new competition has had a “negative impact” on Robert Smyth school, the report says, and fewer pupils has led to a declining income.

In a statement, Academy Principal Sue Jones said: “As a result of local age range change, there is a budgetary situation within the Academy that we have been proactively addressing over the past two years.”

The Academy is currently carrying a net deficit of £738,000 on so-called ‘restricted funds’ - funds earmarked for particular school expenses - largely down to falling pupil numbers.

It also has a £2.677m deficit on its pension reserve.

The Academy had a projected deficit of £350,000 in the current financial year, ending August 31, 2017.

The school has reacted by cutting costs and cutting staff numbers.

A total of 197 people worked at the school in 2015, including all support staff.

By 2016 that had fallen to 156, a reduction of 41.

The Academy is also looking to join a group of schools, or Multi Academy Trust (MAT), to reduce costs in some areas.

Sue Jones said: “Robert Smyth Academy is exploring the possibility of joining a MAT to provide sustainably high standards of provision at a time when schools face increasing financial pressures.

“We are currently working in close collaboration with Tudor Grange Academy Trust and are in the early stages of discussion.”

The Trust currently has six schools across the Midlands, including in Leicester, Worcester and Solihull.

Despite its financial problems, however, Robert Smyth Academy had excellent academic results in 2016.

Some 75 per cent of pupils attained five GCSEs at grade C or above, 15 per cent up on two years before, and well ahead of the national average. Nationally, there was a decline in GCSE standards in 2016.

The A-level score at Robert Smyth also rose - to grade 2, from grade 5 in 2015.

The progress made by disadvantaged students and students with special educational needs also improved.