MARCH Neale-Wade Community College could become an academy within a few months if plans to take the 1,750 pupil school out of Local Education Authority control is backed by parents and staff.
But the plans, which are being considered by the college’s governors, has been attacked by one teacher who fears the government-led academy scheme will lead to ‘creeping privatisation’ of the education system.
Around 50 parents turned up to a consultation meeting on Wednesday night when new Principal Jason Wing outlined what becoming an academy would mean for the Neale-Wade and why it could be good for the school’s future.
Speaking about the proposal in an interview with the Citizen Mr Wing said it was by no means a foregone conclusion the school would go for academy status.
However, he said the move, which would see the school take over control of its own finances and separate from the Local Education Authority, could be a positive step.
He said it will mean extra money for the Neale-Wade and every penny of that would be spent on the education of the school’s students.
Mr Wing also hopes the extra money would help him achieve his aim of taking the Neale-Wade from a ‘satisfactory’ rating by Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education) to ‘outstanding’.
Mr Wing is determined to make the Neale-Wade the best school it can possibly be and has already set wheels in motion to do that.
All parents have been asked to complete a survey which will measure the Neale-Wade against schools of a similar size nationally.
“Once we know where we stand in comparison to other schools, we will know what we need to do to make ourselves the best we can be. Firstly I want to be the best in Fenland, then the county and eventually the country. I don’t shy away from difficult goals,” said Mr Wing, who is a former Neale-Wade school pupil.
He is confident making the school into an academy is a good starting point as it will allow for greater flexibility in the type of courses offered.
It will allow the school to spend its budget as it sees fit to provide a curriculum that is relevant for the students.
However, to achieve academy status the Neale-Wade will have to join forces with both the Cromwell Community College at Chatteris and the Sir Harry Smith Community College in Whittlesey.
“You have to have a good rating by Ofsted to apply for academy status, we are rated ‘satisfactory’ as is the Cromwell, but Sir Harry Smith has a good rating. So we will be joining with them in order to make our application, if we decide to go-ahead,” said Mr Wing.
But Martin Field, a teacher at the Neale-Wade is among those leading the opposition to the move.
He fears that academy status will result in only a short-term gain for the school and could eventually lead to financial problems when the extra funding is cut leaving the Neale-Wade to find alternative money to plug the gap.
Mr Field also pointed outthe extra money for academy status is not new money from the government it comes out of the Local Education Authority’s budget, which means it will come at the expense of schools which are not academies.
“I want to make it clear that I am in no way against Jason - I am just opposed to the Neale-Wade becoming an academy. I think Jason will be a great Principal for the school and he has already put in a lot of new strategies which will help improve the school and achieve his aim of raising standards.
“But I believe we can raise standards and become an outstanding school without becoming an academy. We may get extra money for becoming an academy but I don’t believe that extra funding will continue for too long and what will happen then?
“I believe academies will find themselves having to look for alternative sources of funding, probably from private sponsorship and that is a really big worry. It is ‘creeping privatisation’ of the education system and we must stand against that on principle.
“There was an attempt some years ago to make the Neale-Wade a grant maintained school but the public were opposed to that and managed to prevent it happening. We need to stand together again now,” said Mr Field, who added a petition already under-way in the town.