50 Essex schools on the way to becoming academies

NEARLY 50 schools from across Essex could leave local authority control and funding to become academies, it has emerged.

The Government revealed its academy plans at the end of last month, saying headteachers and schools were best placed to run schools, not politicians.

They have said any school which becomes an academy will have the freedom to control budgets, term times, staff hire and curriculum.

However there had been growing pressure for the list of schools which have expressed an interest to be published.

Union leaders have been calling on Education Secretary Michael Gove to disclose the names saying staff and parents were being left in the dark.

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The list of schools has now been published, revealing 48 from across Essex have expresses an interest including 22 which have been judged as “outstanding” – which the proposals are primarily aimed at.

Amongst the outstanding schools on the list are Colchester Royal Grammar School, King Edward Royal Grammar School, Chelmsford County High School for Girls and Honywood Community Science School in Coggeshall.

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The interest from the grammar schools comes despite the National Grammar Schools Association issuing an “urgent statement” last week advising governors and headteachers to be “extremely cautious” and that there may be “covert dangers” in becoming an academy.

A total of 26 Essex schools, not judged as outstanding, have also applied for information, including The Stanway School, Philip Morant School and the Thomas Lord Audley School, all in Colchester, along with The Colne Community School and College in Brightlingsea.

Last night Essex County Council, which funds education, said it would be waiting to see what the implications could be.

But Jerry Glazier, Essex spokesman for the National Union of Teachers, warned schools to think-again before they go down the road of becoming an academy.

He said: “Anybody thinking that this is an attractive proposition is thinking about where they can save money.

“Whatever the alleged financial benefits, which I don’t think are that great, schools have to think about the implications in the long term – not the short term.

“Once you do it, you cannot undo it – it is a one-way ticket.

“We, as a union, are committed to high-quality, publicly funded, locally accountable education and this will undermine that approach significantly.”

The schools list was finally published after the Department for Education received numerous freedom of information requests for the names.

Schools Minister Lord Hill said: “This is a genuinely permissive policy, there is no pressure for any school to convert by September, and they can do so at any time, when they feel they are ready.

“We want schools to decide what’s best for them, not politicians or bureaucrats.”

Not all the schools have been named yet as they had not been contacted about having their details published but the Department for Education said they would be named as soon as possible.

An Essex County Council spokesman said: “We have seen the list and are awaiting further clarification from Government about the new academies programme, and what the implications of that will be on pre-determined sets of proposals and the way we work with schools in the future.”

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