FIVE secondary schools in Huntingdonshire have confirmed they will be pushing ahead with a joint bid to become academies, with governors at the two remaining schools set to discuss the issue later this week.

Hinchingbrooke School in Huntingdon, the Longsands Learning Partnership, which includes Longsands College and St Neots Community College, and St Peter's School in Huntingdon, announced that they would be putting in a joint application for academy status to the Department for Education soon.

As The Hunts Post went to press yesterday, governors at St Ivo School were meeting to vote on the issue and those at Abbey College in Ramsey were due to meet later this week.

If the application is approved by the Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove, all seven secondary schools, which form Huntingdonshire Secondary Education Partnership (HSEP), could re-open in September as academies.

Under the status the schools will be able to determine their own pay and conditions for staff, have more freedom on what they teach, change term lengths and the times school days begin and end.

The decisions follow nearly a month of consultation with parents, staff and pupils at all seven schools and flies in the face of fierce criticism from former headteacher and Liberal Democrat Cambridgeshire County Councillor Peter Downes, who claimed disadvantaged children would suffer under the scheme.

It is also a major step for St Neots Community College, which only a week ago was given a satisfactory rating by Ofsted after two years in special measures.

In a letter sent to parents on Friday, Val Ford, headteacher of St Peter's School and chairman of the HSEP, wrote: "Our governing body met this week and voted with a significant majority in favour of academy status for the school. This will be in co-ordination with applications from the other Huntingdonshire secondary schools."

Alan Stevens, associate principal of Sawtry Community College, said governors at the school had voted unanimously for the move.

"It gives us the opportunity to look at how we want to offer the best education to our students in the future. Academy status will give that opportunity."

Last month, Cllr Downes, who led Hinchingbrooke School, in the 1980s and 1990s, held a 'community discussion' about academy status. He feared academies would divert money away from children in greater need and called on people to object to the plan.