Academies bring ‘exciting, yet testing time for education’

FIRST created to drive up standards up in failing schools, academy schools have certainly come a long way since their launch in 2000.

Today, all sorts of schools are applying for the Government-supported status in a bid for greater freedom and financial control.

With help from outside sponsors, the schools which make the switch become independent from the local authority and take on many additional responsibilities.

Autonomy over everything from uniform to curriculum, and from school hours to campus developments – it is obvious why the idea of becoming an academy is so appealing to many headteachers.

In the Weston and Worle area, Wyvern Community School has already converted into the Hans Price Academy, while Priory Community School, Kings of Wessex Community School and Churchill Community School have all had applications approved.

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Last week, Broadoak Computing and Mathematics College joined the group, applying for its own academy status.

However, North Somerset Council’s executive member for education, Jeremy Blatchford warns schools should be careful what they wish for.

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Despite supporting the Government policy and recognising the benefit of increased funding, the councillor says schools should be aware the responsibility comes at a price.

He told the Mercury: “While I can absolutely see why many schools in North Somerset are deciding to become academies, they must remember that they become entirely independent from the council’s responsibilities.

“This means, if a school building needs urgent repair work, it is the school which has to fix it, it will not be down to us.”

However, repair work may seem a distant thought to many of the new academies, many of which are being sent generous Government capital funding.

But the fear of redundancies will be in the minds of those working in the already-hit Children and Young Peoples Services department at North Somerset Council.

With schools veering away from the council, many in the council may be wary of what the future holds.

But, despite Cllr Blatchford refusing to comment on the possibility of further redundancies, he said ties between the newly set-up academies and council would not be entirely cut.

He said: “The new academies will continue to work with each other and us to share ideas and services.

“I hope they will continue to come to us for services such as payroll and accounting.

“Overall, I support the idea for academies and have no concerns about the majority of schools in our district – this is an exciting, yet testing, time for education.”

* For an indepth look at schools in this area, see last week’s Weston Mercury.

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