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Bridport school aims for academy status
1:00pm Wednesday 28th November 2012 in Bridport
THE Sir John Colfox School in Bridport is aiming to become an academy so it can decide what subjects to teach its pupils.
It will also have around £70,000 more to spend each year – but won’t be able to get into debt or borrow money.
Headteacher Kay Taylor and the board of governors outlined what it would mean for the school to a 50-strong audience of parents and fellow primary and secondary school heads.
Mrs Taylor said they were actively considering becoming an academy which would mean severing links with Dorset County Council.
The school would receive its funding direct from the Government.
She said: “It’s a purely pragmatic decision. It is something we are doing with our heads not our hearts.
“We want to be able to maintain the breadth and depth of the curriculum we have now.
“It has not been driven by the extra money.”
She said the impetus was due to proposed changes to the curriculum which would see an end of option choices for students at GCSE.
That could mean the school could no longer offer vocational courses and subjects like drama and business studies could disappear.
Mrs Taylor admitted staff were not initially in favour and were concerned over their pay and conditions and what they see as the creeping privatisation of education.
She said: “But the staff understand about the curriculum.
“They did have concerns about pay and conditions which the school would be able to set itself. But why would we offer less to teachers when we want the best? I can’t see sense in paying less than the market value.”
More than half of Dorset’s secondary school are already academies.
Mrs Taylor outlined the disadvantages, which would include parents having to complain to an ombudsman not the local authority.
She added: “It is ironic that to maintain our freedom over the curriculum we are having to link ourselves to the government which wants to take that freedom away and we are disassociating ourselves from the local authority which has never wanted to restrict us. Our school is built on choice and surely students should have some say in their education?” Mrs Taylor said there would be no change to the school’s admissions policy. The school will now take the first steps to becoming an academy – but could change its mind right up until papers were signed.
Mrs Taylor’s presentation on the issues is on the school website and parents have all been sent letters.
The student council will also be consulted.
Dorset county councillor Karl Wallace, whose children attend the school, said at the meeting: “I can see that your heart is in the right place but I feel sorry for other schools because I feel there is going to be a two-tier system.
“I feel how your arm has been twisted into this choice.”
The target is to obtain academy status by June or September next year.
1,037% rise within two years
THE government spent £8.3bn on the academies programme in the two years up to April, 2012 – £1bn above budget.
Now £350m has to be cut from other education services.
This will include cutting £95m from the school improvement programme, taking £100m from money set aside for 16-19 year olds to stay on at school or college and a similar amount earmarked for intervening to improve standards in under-performing schools.
Since the election in 2010, the numbers of schools becoming academies has risen by 1,037 per cent – from 210 to 2,309 by this September.
This includes 48 per cent of all secondary schools and five per cent of primary schools.
As a result, the programme is now swallowing up 15 per cent of the entire schools budget – compared with just five per cent in 2010.