All Newham schools to become academies by 2022
- Credit: Archant
“We are going to complete the task of setting schools free from local education bureaucracy and we’re going to do it in this parliament.”
That’s it then, job done George Osborne. All primary and secondary schools will be academies by 2020 or have plans in place to do so by 2022. Well, perhaps not exactly.
As a trio of secondary schools have been finding out, gaining academy status is not as simple as the Chancellor might have made out.
Sarah Bonnell, in Deanery Road, Stratford, Rokeby, in Barking Road, Canning Town, and Lister, in St Mary’s Road, Plaistow, are in the process of formalising their working partnership by launching the Newham Community Schools Trust with a view to turning all three schools into academies.
However a disagreement between Newham Council and Rokeby and Lister schools over private finance initiative (PFI) contributions is proving a stumbling block.
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In 2008, the two schools, together with the council, the Department for Education (DfE) and contractors entered into an agreement for the creation of new school buildings, which were opened in 2010, through annual payments – more than £1million this school year.
The trust claims the council demanded a further fixed amount each year on top of the agreed amount four years ago – about £427,000 for this year – something the schools have so far refused to pay.
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Although the disagreement has been rumbling on below the radar for a while, now the schools are legally obliged to become academies, both parties must seek to reach an agreement.
A spokesman for the trust said: “To go from good to great, we need to be an academy trust that will allow us to fully collaborate, share staff expertise, resources and facilities, expand and extend our curriculum, and ensure we retain high-quality teachers.
“Becoming an academy trust will give our students the best opportunities to succeed.”
However Newham Council refute the schools’ claims and insist they do not want to raise the contributions being paid.
A spokeswoman said: “The council is not seeking to raise the schools’ contribution, rather the schools are concerned about the terms of the contract they signed.
“The council has now met with the schools to discuss their payment schedules relating to this.
“The council is fully supportive of the schools becoming a multi-academy trust and is working with them to try and come to a mutually acceptable agreement.”
The schools haven’t just faced opposition from outside though – governing bodies and teachers held protests last year in objection to the academy proposals.
At Rokeby, 44 members of the UK’s largest teaching union, the National Union of Teachers (NUT), walked out on June 2 while year 11 pupils were due to take their GCSE English Language exam.
Since Tony Blair’s Labour government introduced the policy in 2000, 2,075 of England’s 3,381 state secondaries are now academies while 2,440 of the country’s 16,766 primary schools operate outside the control of local authorities – dividing opinion everywhere.
Despite the academy endorsements of the Newham Community Schools Trust, the NUT will march in protest past the Department for Education tonight (Weds).
“There are no educational reasons for this change, it’s purely down to political dogma,” said Iain Hale, assistant branch secretary of the NUT in Newham.
“It’s almost about the types of academies. Some of the smaller chains that spring up between local schools, working together to deliver high standards of education can prove beneficial.
“But some of the larger chains that have schools spread out across the country, joined up working just doesn’t add up.
“We know nationally there is greater pressure on school places and even with the coordination of local education authorities some schools are turning children away.
“Without that coordination some children could end up with no school place altogether.”