Friday, 1 November 2013

Skerton High School: Full Statement from David Morris MP on possible moves to an academy

(With thanks to Hand Off Skerton): Following up on our earlier stories about the future of Skerton High and the possibility it may become an academy, Morecambe and Lunesdale MP David Morris has issued a statement.

"It was a privilege to take students from Skerton High School to present their petition to Downing Street yesterday and also to present their petition to the House of Commons," he says.

"I had a meeting yesterday with Lord Nash [the
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools] about the future of the school, and informed him of the campaign to keep the school open. Lord Nash has agreed to send a special adviser from the Department of Education into Skerton to see the work that goes on there.

"If the adviser is satisfied that there is a unique education being offered at Skerton, but believes the school is failing OFSTED standards he will report back to the Department and [Education Secretary] Michael Gove will be able to turn the school into an academy. This will mean that the children and teachers will stay in place and the school will not formally close."

Academies are schools set up under a private contract between Michael Gove and a sponsor: usually either another school or a privately run, though currently non-profit-making, academy chain.

Despite this news for campaigners, who secured a 3500 signature strong petition backing the school, Mr Morris sounded a note of caution.

"If ... the adviser thinks that the school does not meet the criteria, Michael Gove will be unable to force it to convert into an academy," the MP warned. 

"The only other option if the County is set on closure is for a group of parents to lead a free school application to save the school. 

"I am hopeful that it will not come to this, and that Michael Gove will be able to convert Skerton into an academy.

"The meeting was very positive but we still have to carry on the fight. We may not be out of the woods yet but there is light emerging in the trees." 

The campaign group has welcomed this statement, which clarifies discussions which took place yesterday in London following submission of the petition in Parliament (see news story). 

It now falls to the school - both staff and pupils and local residents – to prove the school is a special case, as required for Michael Gove to make it into an academy.

It should be noted that turning the school into an Academy – taking it out of the state education system – may not prove popular in all quarters. The National Union of Teachers opposes the academisation of local schools, and is campaigning to defend a unified state education system. The NUT believes the best way to do this is for schools to remain part of the local authority family of schools.

The NUT points out that under the academies Act of 2010, the Secretary of State for Education can now 'force' a maintained school to convert into an academy due to perceived poor performance at the school but only in certain limited legal circumstances. (The NUT’s full legal advice on when this power might come into play is detailed here, and you can also about the rights of head teachers, should they find themselves being called to a meeting with a DfE academy broker.

See also:

David Morris MP presents Skerton High petition to Parliament, backs campaign to save it

Skerton High Saved?

Department for Education: Information for schools interested in becoming an academy and information for existing academies, local authorities and sponsors

National Union of Teachers on Academies  

The Guardian: No Choice but to Become an Academy?19th December 2011: Schools around the country are facing enforced conversion to academy status – against the wishes of parents, staff and governors

The Guardian: Academies
A full section on the newspaper's web site about Academies, including news stories and features weighing up the pros and cons

1 comment:

Tufty Squirrel said...

I think the parents and staff of Skerton High should be cautious accepting this means of 'saving' the school. In his Lord Mayor's banquet speech recently, David Cameron bragged that there are "over 3,000 more free schools and academies" - but this doesn't mean that 3,000 schools have been set up, it means that some 3,000 schools have been given away for free, property deeds and all, and in many cases to high profile Tory party and Liberal Democrat donors. Billions worth of land and infrastructure that was paid for at the public expense has been given away for free to unaccountable private sector interests. Only a Tory could possibly believe that this is something to brag about.