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Parents’ backlash over academy bid
CHENEY School is the latest Oxfordshire secondary which could become an academy.
The school, in Cheney Lane, Oxford, has 1,470 pupils and is consulting on proposals to convert.
Last night it held an open meeting for the community.
A group, Cheney Parents Against Academy Status (CPAAS), has been formed, with campaigners circulating flyers calling on people to “save” the school from academy status.
Headteacher Jolie Kirby said governors had been discussing the advantages and disadvantages of becoming an academy for a year.
She said: “We are interested in the additional freedoms we’d have with internal finances to make the best choices for our community.”
She said the school would gain an extra £225,000 in the first year, the equivalent of the school’s spend across all departments plus the salaries of two teachers.
Consultation goes on until Friday, March 23, and a final decision will be made by the governors on Monday, April 16. If the go-ahead is given, the school would become an academy — with the same name, admissions arrangements and staff terms and conditions — on August 1.
Mrs Kirby said: “It is very easy to be scared of change.
“Other schools which have converted to academy status have been very positive about the freedoms and benefits.
“I understand people’s anxieties but the governing body would not be looking into it if they did not think there were real benefits for the student population.”
But a CPAAS group flyer says more could be lost than gained if Cheney converted. It said: “The extra £225,000 Cheney expects to gain for conversion involves a Government ‘incentive’ for the first year only and amounts to barely two to three per cent of the current budget.
“But as an academy the school will have to start buying in costly services every year, including payroll, insurance, premises and legal services, often from the private sector where costs and profit may be emphasised over quality.”
Gill Jaggers, who has two children at the school, Joe, 19, and Maria, 16, was “ambivalent” about the proposal. She said: “It just strikes me everybody’s getting on the bandwagon because that is what you need to get funding.”
But Euton Daley, who has three children, Kema, 18, Ishmael, 15, and Akasha, 12, at Cheney, feared the proposals would lead to a focus on exam results. He said: “I am not happy about it – I don’t think necessarily it is a good thing.”
Mum of two Kate Meagher, from Divinity Road, is part of the parents’ campaigning group, and said more than 20 parents were involved.
She said: “We feel the academy process has been quite rushed, quite non-transparent and opens up risks of the privatisation of education in a way that really isn’t open to democratic opposition.
“Most of us only found out about this in the past week and a half.”
Sponsored academies are failing schools which reopen as academies to boost standards, while converted academies are successful schools which opt out of authority control to gain power over budgets, admissions and curriculum.
There are three county sponsored academies: North Oxfordshire Academy, Banbury; Oxford Academy and Oxford Spires Academy.
Schools which converted include King Alfred’s, Wantage; Wallingford School; Bartholomew School, Eynsham; Chipping Norton School; Rush Common Primary, Abingdon; Gillotts School, Henley and Hanwell Fields Primary School, Banbury.
Converting, or consulting include Henry Box, Witney; Burford School; The Cherwell School, Oxford; Langtree School; Cutteslowe Primary; Dashwood Primary; Faringdon Community College; Faringdon Infants and Juniors; Fitzwaryn, Wantage; Springfield, Witney and Kingfisher, Abingdon.
The Department for Education has asked about possible sponsored academy status for: Berinsfield Primary; Windale Primary, Blackbird Leys and John Henry Newman Primary, Littlemore.
A further seven schools – Bayards Hill, Orchard Meadow, Larkrise, St Nicholas, Church Cowley, Middle Barton and Orchard Fields – have been told by Oxfordshire County Council they are likely to be turned into sponsored academies.