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To close: the academy with just 16 applicants

02 February 2011

by Margaret Holness Education Correspondent

A C OF E academy, St Michael and All Angels, in Camberwell, south London, which hit the headlines when one of its deputy heads, Katharine Birbalsingh, criticised it at the Conservative Party conference last autumn (News, 15, 22 October 2010), is to close. It will be replaced, however, by a Church of England academy in new buildings, on the same site where there has been a church school for 400 years.

“We are glad that tradition is being maintained,” the director of education for Southwark diocese, Barbara Lane, said. “The new academy will be run by the ARK (Absolute Return for Kids) group, but will have a clear religious [C of E] designation.”

The academy had been failing to recruit to capacity for some years, and when applications for the 120 Year 7 places for next September fell to 16, closure became inevitable.

Although the academy’s examination results last summer made it the second most-improved school in Southwark, it failed to change local perceptions. These were further influenced by publicity from the Conservative Party conference, when Ms Birbalsingh, who had only joined the school in September, admitted to being the author of an anonymous blog that criticised inner-city education.

There will be no admissions to the academy next September. Older pupils will complete their examination courses, and those currently in Years 7 and 8 (aged 11-13) will transfer to other schools. “We intend to do our best by all our students,” Mrs Lane said.

ARK already runs three C of E academies: Burlington Danes, Hammersmith; Charter (formerly St Luke’s School), Portsmouth; and St Alban’s, Birmingham. All three were formerly voluntary aided church schools, serving challenging areas.

A spokeswoman for ARK, Lesley Smith, said that all three had maintained a strong Christian identity: “Most of our schools do not have a denominational background, but where a church tradition exists, it is respected.”

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