Hunts secondary schools get academy green light - but most will close tomorrow in pensions strike

ALL of Huntingdonshire’s secondary schools will be re-opening in September as academies after government ministers approved the mass break away from local authority control.

ALL of Huntingdonshire’s secondary schools will be re-opening in September as academies after government ministers approved the mass breakaway from local authority control.

Before then, however, all seven secondary schools will be closing tomorrow (Thursday, June 30) as teachers walk out in protest against pension changes.

Val Ford, headteacher of St Peter’s School in Huntingdon and chairman of Huntingdonshire Secondary Education Partnership (HSEP), said this week that confirmation had been received from the Department of Education (DofE) to proceed with academy status.

As well as St Peter’s, the move affects Hinchingbrooke School, in Huntingdon, Longsands and St Neots Community College in St Neots, St Ivo School in St Ives, Abbey College, Ramsey, and Sawtry Community College.

The seven academies will have financial and educational autonomy – they will be able to determine their own pay and conditions for staff, though there are no plans to do so in Huntingdonshire.

The schools will have more freedom on what they teach, and be able to change term lengths and even the time school days begin and end.

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The plan is for all seven secondary schools to complete the legal work to become academies by August 1, so their business managers have a hectic month in prospect.

If the process is delayed by a month, it could mean less funding for the school, though how much they stand to lose depends on pupil numbers at the school concerned.

Each school will be given a �25,000 government grant to help with the legal process of forming an academy trust and transferring land ownership.

Mrs Ford said: “We are aiming for the August 1 deadline, but that will depend on whether everybody can complete the paperwork and legal documentation. Because of the overwhelming numbers of applications [to the DofE], the process has been very lengthy. But we have all received our academy order and we have all got orders to proceed towards our own individual academy status.

“We are looking forward to the opportunities that academy status will bring to us, and we are working together collaboratively on future educational initiatives. But we are not changing anything immediately.”

Ties with the local education authority, Cambridgeshire County Council – which has controlled all state schools in the county since it was set up April 1974 – will not be severed completely, however.

The academies will continue to procure some services centrally, such as support for pupils with special educational needs and for pupils in care.

Mrs Ford added: “It has been such a long journey trying to get the process through, but we did not lose hope. We had indications from the DofE that they were positive about the schools going forward.

“We are relieved and very pleased that we can now progress towards that end.”

Tomorrow all but one of the secondary schools will close, completely or substantially, as part of the nationwide strikes. Hinchingbrooke School will be closing for training purposes.

Arrangements have been made at some of the schools for those pupils taking exams.

Primary schools expected to be closed tomorrow include: Alconbury, Earith, Hartford Junior, Holywell, Little Paxton, Ramsey Spinning Infant, Stukeley Meadows, Thongsley Fields and Thorndown. Others will be partially closed, including Eastfield, Monkfield Park, in Cambourne, Samuel Pepys, Sawtry Infants and Priory Junior.