HUNTS: Academy status is a ‘one-way street’

THE two remaining secondary schools in Huntingdonshire have confirmed they will be part of a district-wide bid to become academies.

Last week the Hunts Post reported that five of the seven secondary schools in Huntingdonshire had agreed to push ahead with a joint bid to become academies.

This week St Ivo School and Abbey College in Ramsey both added their names to the list after the board of governors at both schools unanimously backed the move.

The joint application will be considered by Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education in the next three months. If approved, the schools, all part of the Huntingdonshire Secondary Education partnership, 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.

In a letter to parents, Howard Gilbert, headteacher of St Ivo School said of the governors decision: “It will provide an excellent way forward to work in partnership with schools currently in the Huntingdonshire consortium.

“We can also look forward to increased choice and purchasing power as a consortium when sourcing goods and services.

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“In due course the curriculum freedom will give us opportunities to be innovative in our approach.

“The extra control of our funding will enable us to enhance opportunities for our students. It will also help us to protect the current curriculum experience during a time of budget cuts and falling rolls.”

Headteacher Wayne Birks said: “I think we are in an exciting time for secondary education in Ramsey, This is a government policy and initiative that Huntingdonshire schools have responded positively to, but the academy issue is not something brand new to us. We have been working in partnership for a while over for example the diploma programme.

“All schools have gone through pretty comprehensive community consultation processes. It is important the community feel part of the school. Whatever happens next it is about engaging with the community and we have done that.”

In a letter to the Hunts Post Cambridgeshire county councillor Peter Downes reiterated his fears the new status would take money away from children with special educational needs and vital community services.

He wrote: “Governors are taking on an astonishing range of extra risks and responsibilities for a short-term gain. In two years’ time, a revised national funding formula will, in all probability, remove the financial advantage for academies, as it will be socially, financially and politically unsustainable.

“Becoming an academy is virtually a one-way street, as to revert to local authority status is complex. They will be trapped as ‘independent’ schools answering directly to Whitehall (so much for localism) and have no local authority safety net.

“So the academies will have taken on substantial risk for nought.”