Former Plymouth free school lays off 46 staff

A former free school which was taken over after a damning Ofsted report is cutting nearly 50 posts amid “financial difficulties”.

By Jonathan Morris 

Staff numbers at Millbay Academy in Plymouth are to be cut from 163 to 117 from January, the combined secondary and primary school confirmed.

Academy trust Reach South said the move followed a “significant” drop in applications after the Ofsted report.

The National Education Union (NEU) called the move “short-sighted”.

The trust said in a statement: “Applications to the school dropped significantly following an inspection by Ofsted in 2019.”

It added: “Historical overstaffing and less children attending the school means that the school no longer can afford the 163 employees that it currently has.”

The trust said there had been 23 applications for voluntary redundancy.

It said a new “team structure” was specifically aimed at addressing the areas of improvement highlighted in the Ofsted report.

The academy, with its striking red facade, started life in September 2013 as a free school called the Plymouth School of Creative Arts.

In January 2019 it was rated inadequate in nearly every category and in In December 2019 Ofsted criticised the school for “not taking effective action” towards the removal of special measures.

In July 2020 it became known as Millbay Academy, after it officially joined the Reach South Academy Trust in March.

Millbay Academy has not yet had its first Ofsted inspection.

The NEU said coronavirus had created “significant challenges” for teaching with staff unwell and isolating.

Added to that was “increasing evidence of teachers preparing to leave the profession”.

“Therefore for Reach South to be reducing staff at this time we argue is particularly short-sighted and has long term implications for provision,” it said.