Unions warn of schools breakaway

SCHOOLS may look to loosen ties from county council control amid concerns over the major shake-up in education in Suffolk, unions have warned.

Simon Tomlinson

SCHOOLS may look to loosen ties from county council control amid concerns over the major shake-up in education in Suffolk, unions have warned.

The fears come after the EADT revealed that the estimated cost of Suffolk's school organisation review - which will see all 40 middle schools abolished - had risen from �23million to �27million.

The review aims to simplify the system, but critics say a government-led drive to give schools greater autonomy could threaten the state education system.

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Following the Education and Inspections Act 2006, a number of schools are now looking to become foundations or trusts, which will give them more say over the day-to-day running of the establishment.

Hartismere High School, Great Cornard Upper, Sudbury Upper, Deben High School and Orwell High School are among those investigating the change of status.

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In its consultation document, Hartismere High School stated one of the reasons for changing status was to give a “full range of options for funding much-needed improvements to the school buildings and for improving standards throughout the school”.

They would continue to be funded and maintained by Suffolk County Council, but trust schools will be able to work with organisations to generate extra income and shape policy.

However, unions are saying that part of the reason for breaking away may be disillusionment with the local authority.

Graham White, divisional secretary for the National Union of Teachers in Suffolk, said: “I would not be surprised if dissatisfaction with Suffolk County Council is a trigger for schools moving out. It may be that there is not enough money for the fabric of the school.

“I am concerned the state education system we have is gradually being eroded away and we'll end up with more and more trust and foundations schools.”

However, Ian Brown, head of schools infrastructure at Suffolk County Council, said schools would not be moving away from the state education system.

Like voluntary-aided or church-run schools, they would be still be closely monitored, but have all the benefits of greater responsibility and flexibility in how they operate, he said.

He said: “Having formal partnerships with organisations will bring expertise which would not have been able to do with an ordinary school.”

Unison, which represents school support staff, also fear their members will be jeopardised because they will not be subject to national pay and conditions at a trust or foundation establishment.

Paul Aldous, chairman of the Suffolk branch of Unison, said: “The public need to start thinking about what type of education system is wanted in Suffolk before it gets too late.”

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