Wednesday 23 May 2012

Parents fight schools’ academy switch plans

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Copied from Cambridge News

 

Parents have started a campaign against their community schools being “sold off” to big business by becoming academies.

Bosses at Histon and Impington junior and infant schools have put forward plans to become an academy as part of a federation that also includes Longstanton’s Hatton Park Primary School.

Although most of the city’s secondary schools are academies, the group would be one of the first primary-age schools to make the move away from local authority control in Cambridge and its surrounding villages.

Parents, politicians and teaching unions believe the move is financially risky, would isolate parents by giving them less of a say and put private profit-driven business in charge of children’s education.

Rob Turner, a parent at the junior school and founding member of the campaign group Keep Our Community Primary Schools, said they had collected more than 100 signatures in a petition opposing the conversion.

He said: “Academies are a political tool and have nothing to do with improving education.

“We are worried that in the long-term our schools will be turned into market places for profit-making companies. The financial risks for academies are particularly great for primary schools.”

He added: “We feel the governors should concentrate on the business of providing a good education for our children and decide against becoming academies.”

Hatton Park was given a “notice to improve” last year and formed a partnership with Histon and Impington to drive up standards. The notice was lifted in February after an Ofsted inspection.

There are seven primary academy schools in Cambridgeshire and another seven looking to make the conversion.

While the Government says academies are about “localisation rather than privatisation” and allow schools to control their own budgets, they are unpopular with many.

Tom Woodcock, of Cambridgeshire NUT, said: “The NUT is opposed to all academy schools as they are less efficient, less accountable and don’t improve results.

“However, our biggest issue is they are a way of privatising education.”

Huw Jones, who lives in Histon and was a Labour candidate in this month’s local elections, said the county council is “scaremongering” schools into becoming academies.

A spokesman for Cambridgeshire County Council denied it was pressurising schools and said: “The county council has no role in the decision-making process.”

In a letter to parents, Dr Paul Rodgers, chair of governors at Hatton Park, said the positives of the plan included smaller class sizes, boosting the partnership with Histon and Impington, financial savings and freedom to broaden the curriculum.

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