One of the country’s leading academy trusts launched a legal appeal at the High Court against a decision by a county council that could lead to the closure of an academy that provides Outstanding-rated education to pupils with serious health issues including cancer.
Since 2007, CHES Academy, part of Wave Multi Academy Trust, has been contracted by Cornwall Council to provide alternative education provision for children unable to attend school because of medical/health needs. It provides the education over three sites – its school base Glynn House and hospital school room in the Royal Cornwall Hospital, both in Truro, and an education unit within the adolescent mental health unit in Bodmin – but children and young people from across Cornwall attend its provision. CHES has been consistently rated by Ofsted as Outstanding over this period.
However, Cornwall Council has opted to award the contract to provide the services from September 2022 to a new provider, Special Partnership Trust (SPT). SPT has no prior record of providing the education services required, while the County Council awarded Wave a significantly higher score in the quality of education part of the tender.
Rob Gasson, the Chief Executive of Wave, said that as a result of the loss of services and income that will follow, CHES – attended by 120 children and young people with a range of health needs, including cancer and serious mental ill-health – would most likely have to close because it will become financially unviable.
Mr Gasson said:
“This will cause enormous anxiety to the pupils and their families. The local authority is not only denying unwell children from across our county access to an Outstanding-rated provision but effectively closing an academy – something that only the Secretary of State for Education, with whom we have our funding agreement, has the power to do.”
Mr Gasson added that Wave has a number of concerns about the tender process and decision, including the pricing model and a number of breaches of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (PCR).
“Wave’s costings, which received a score of zero, were based on our 14-year experience of the resource required for 120 pupils. We believe SPT will be unable to run the services to an acceptable standard on the basis of its submitted costs or will only be able to cater for a maximum of 75 pupils, far fewer than the 120 who need the support. We believe the low price can only lead to staff redundancies or children being denied access to a high quality education.
“Cornwall Council has even acknowledged through this process that the winning bidder will not provide as high a quality of education as Wave. Yet it has still chosen to go with SPT.
“We have as a result launched an appeal through legal channels.”