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Academy hung out to dry


Unity City Academy in Middlesbrough is being abandoned by its commercial backer Amey, which is reported to be in discussions with government about the details of the walkout.

Unity has had a stormy history since it opened as one of the government’s “flagship” academy schools in 2002, much touted as the answer to the previous school’s low results and other problems. In its first two years Unity expelled large numbers of difficult pupils. Dumping the lowest achievers and those with special needs has often been the first action of academies in their attempts to artificially improve results.

In Unity’s case this didn’t work, and the new academy head resigned after two years. The following year the school was found to have overspent its budget by £1.5 million. That summer the school failed its Ofsted inspection.

By 2006, in spite of the expulsions, behaviour had deteriorated to the point that police were called to deal with assaults. Still, teachers managed to improve the school and get it out of Ofsted “special measures”, only to move into dispute with management over excessive demands for lesson planning.

Now its private sponsor, Amey, a “major services consultancy”, wants out. Times are hard and Unity is not improving the Amey brand name. Nobody seems clear about where this leaves the school. It seems likely to close, leaving other local schools to pick up the pieces of this disastrous programme.