Heads hit out at article

TWO headteachers have hit out following an article in last week’s Citizen relating to a campaign in March against the town’s primary schools breaking away from local authority control and becoming Academies.

Wisbech, March and District Trades Union Council organised a public meeting on Saturday as part of the Keep March Academy Free campaign and Union Council chairman, Martin Field, voiced his concerns.

Some of the details in the article gave rise to complaints from Leverington, which converted to an Academy last year.

Headteacher Rosie Simmonds is keen to put the record straight about Leverington Primary Academy.

She said the article had “incorrectly interpreted the academy programme and the differences between academies”.

Said Mrs Simmonds: “There are two main types of academy: 1. An Academy that has a sponsor, this could be another sponsor school or a business. And yes, Michael Gove (Education Secretary) has announced that schools with an Ofsted report of serious weakness or notice to improve, will become a sponsored academy.

“2. A Local Authority maintained School that has decided individually to convert to an Academy such as Leverington Primary Academy. No business sponsor involvement at all.

“The article implied that Leverington Primary Academy had to get a sponsor to be able to become an academy. This is incorrect. The whole school community decided after consultation to convert to an Academy following our ‘outstanding’ Ofsted inspection in February 2010.

“Conversion to Academy status took place on April 1, 2011. Leverington Primary Academy does receive funding directly from the Education Funding Agency but it is not a profit making business. Yes, we are a business, registered with Companies House, have strict financial accountability, and all our budget given to us is spent for the benefit of our children.

“Pay and conditions for our staff remains the same as maintained LA schools. Being a ‘convertor’ Academy is hard work and challenging, yet rewarding. We have freedom to buy in the appropriate personnel and service to ensure our children get the very best they deserve.”

Mrs Simmonds said the Department for Education Academy website has details about the two different types of academy.

In response to the article, Rachel Beeson, headteacher at March’s All Saints’ Inter-Church VA Primary School, said:

“There is a lot of pressure on schools to become academies, not just because they are being forced to but because it is the right choice for the schools individually. Governing bodies need to look at what is right for their school.

“I really think there is one direction of travel. That is that the government are intent on making all schools academies because they are systematically taking local authorities apart and many schools want control of that journey.”

Asked where she stood on the issue, Mrs Beeson said: “I am in favour of what is best for the children. For many it is becoming an academy.

“I think this is causing unnecessary anxiety and stress for parents who don’t have all the information and don’t realise what academies are and the different types. In some situations, academies are a good thing.”

Mrs Beeson believes the money debate isn’t an issue because of the government’s Fair Funding policy which is due within the next couple of years.

“Academies will be funded at the same rate as community schools. Local authority is being dismantled and schools need to stand on their own two feet and manage the changes.”

In response to Mrs Simmonds, Mr Field said: “I certainly didn’t want to imply that Leverington had been forced into becoming an Academy.”

As far as Saturday’s meeting had gone, Mr Field said the speakers were excellent.

Attendance “wasn’t great” Mr Field said but he explained other school events were going on and it was a sunny day.

“I think partly it reflects the first sunny weekend in a long time and also some summer events were going on.

“I think partly people felt they had got the message when they read the leaflets and they didn’t need the message reinforcing.

“It would have been better for March if more people had been there to hear these excellent speakers,” said Mr Field, adding he was encouraged by the response he had received on the door steps to the campaign.