The Portland Academy Proposal
In July 2008 cabinet agreed that Dorset County Council would co sponsor the proposed academy on Portland and that we should move to a feasibility study for the proposal. The schools, with local authority support, approached a number of potential sponsors and eventually secured Stephen Heppell. Under Stephen Heppell the project progressed to the point where the Expression of Interest was accepted by what was then the Department for Children Schools and Families and the feasibility process was initiated.
In the initial round of cuts following the election of the new government in 2010, a large number of academy projects funded through the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme were officially listed as stopped. However, in the case of Portland, the sponsors were encouraged to continue the development of the education vision pending the review of capital expenditure following the comprehensive spending review in October 2010. The feasibility process was put on hold.
Stephen Heppell and Dorset County Council, Sponsor and Co sponsor, were approached by the Aldridge Foundation (AF). Initially, they were seeking to join the project as co-sponsors but, following discussion, agreed to take over the sponsorship of the Academy and Stephen Heppell became the project's Patron.
The Aldridge Foundation
The Aldridge Foundation is a charity and an established sponsor of Academy schools. In June 2011 it was named Academy Sponsor of the Year at the British Council for Schools Environment "Best of British" Awards. The Foundation's Chairman is Sir Rod Aldridge OBE who founded Capita and turned it into one of the UK's most successful companies. Honor Wilson Fletcher MBE is the Chief Executive. The Foundation is sponsor of four existing academies.
With the support of the Aldridge Foundation the feasibility stage was restarted following agreement in principle by the department to fund the conversion of the SWB subject to feasibility being demonstrated. Consultation was restarted in September 2011 with the aim of reaching a funding agreement by the end of the year. The Department has agreed a capital investment of £7m and revenue support for 25 years subject to successful completion of the feasibility process as a whole.
Using the provisions of the 2010 Academies Act, the governing bodies of all of the schools except St George's have formally agreed to convert to Academy status under a single Trust led by the Aldridge Foundation. This has removed the need for Dorset County Council to undertake a formal process to close the existing schools. The schools are now engaged in a consultation with their communities as required by the act.
Although the project has developed over a number of years and has changed sponsor, the essence of the educational vision remains unchanged. The core of the proposal is for a single 4-19 school, on multiple sites, to replace some of the existing schools on the island. The school will work in partnership with pre-school providers to provide a coherent learning experience from 0-19.
The proposed academy will be located on two sites: The new Underhill site will accommodate the old Chesil Cove schools on Osprey Quay. The main all-through campus will be sited in part of the old MOD building at Southwell Business Park which will be remodelled.
The process is still in the feasibility stage as approved by cabinet in June 2008. It is hoped to move to funding agreement by February 2012. If that is achieved the academy will open in the existing buildings in September 2012 and in the new buildings by September 2013.