Parents’ concerns over school future

Richard Claxton
Richard Claxton

WORRIED parents in Pocklington have moved to form an action group to oppose an idea that Woldgate College could soon be converted to an academy school.

Following a recent consultation meeting with headteacher Jeff Bower a number of parents have said they attempt to block any move towards academy status.

Led by father-of-two Richard Claxton, he is concerned that under a new status, control of the school would be removed from the local authority and funded directly from central government.

He is worried that academy schools have a broad range of powers including the ability to set their own curriculum and terms and conditions, including the length of school days, as well as having the power to seek sponsors from businesses in the private sector.

He said: “Academies mean the end of local democratic control of schools and the removal of the safety net provided by the local education authority.

“East Riding Council is democratically accountable to local people. We can contact them for arbitration on a range of school issues.

“If we don’t like the way they oversee the running of our schools, we can take action via the ballot box in local elections. These things would be impossible with Academy schools. Parents’ complaints or appeals would have to be taken up with the Secretary of State for Education in London.

“For all their imperfections, local authorities provide an immensely valuable safety net which means they are there to help pick up the pieces if a school has difficulties or an emergency, such as a fire, flood or legal wrangle. Their ethos is to look after a ‘family’ of schools. What would happen in a fragmented, market-driven, academy system is unclear.

“The government’s ideological drive to sound the death knell for local education authorities and see schools run as businesses is putting huge pressure on schools to convert to Academies.

“Some schools appear to be bulldozing through plans with only a sham or one-sided consultation.”

However, the move has been defended by headteacher Jeff Bower.

In response, he said: “Woldgate College has been investigating the option of academy conversion for some considerable time.

We invited all parents to a consultation meeting at which many issues were discussed and explained, including at length the views of Mr Claxton and the Anti-Academy Alliance.

“Mr Claxton’s emotive use of language attempts to draw the college into an ideological battle with the government, which is entirely inappropriate.

“The unanimous decision of the governing body to set off down the academy conversion route was taken as a rational, considered pragmatic response to the new education agenda in order to ensure the best possible outcomes for the students in our community.

“In the context of Mr Claxton’s comments it is important to stress that academies receive no additional funding – the difference is that they have more control over how they choose to spend it in the interests of their students.

“Local democratic control in academies is exercised through elections to the governing body and the time scales involved are quite lengthy – if we do convert to academy status the process will have taken at least 12 months. There is no ‘bulldozing’”