Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Brampton's William Howard School investigating academy switch

William Howard School in Brampton is the latest Cumbrian secondary school to start exploring whether it should become a new academy.

William Howard School photo
William Howard School, Brampton

Governors have launched a consultation, which is set to run until May 20.

Parents’ events will be held in school on Thursday, May 5 and again two weeks later on May 19. Both sessions will run from 5pm until 7pm.

School leaders are also discussing the option with staff groups and other interested parties.

Governors will reconvene on May 25 to decide whether to apply to become an academy and seek to reach a funding deal with the Department for Education.

Schools can step out of the process at any time up until a funding agreement is reached.

If all goes well, the school could convert into an academy in time for the start of the new academic year in September.

Further details available on the school’s website explain that William Howard could be in line to retain some £720,000 a year that is currently retained by the county council to help provide county-wide services such as education welfare, school improvement and free school meals.

In comparison, academies are funded directly by central government and so receive the cash usually kept by local authorities, equating to around 10 per cent of a school’s budget.

Academies would need to buy back in certain services but governors would be given the freedom to decide how the money is spent.

The new academies introduced by the coalition government are different to others which are already operating in Cumbria.

The county’s first academies – the Richard Rose Academies in Carlisle, West Lakes Academy in Egremont and Furness Academy in Barrow – were created to help drive up standards in areas where they were traditionally low.

New academies introduced by Education Secretary Michael Gove were initially aimed at outstanding schools to help give them more independence.

Trinity School in Carlisle and Caldew School in Dalston are hoping to form a “chain” of local schools, building on the work already going on to share good practice and raise standards.

Parents at the two schools were given reassurances this week that converting will not lead to major changes.

Each school maintains they will retain their own identity and independence.

School leaders say the only major change will be how they are funded and that becoming an academy is similar to the 1990s when schools were able to become Grant Maintained (GM).

Andy Abernethy and Jennie Wilkinson, headteacher and chairman of the governing body at Caldew School, wrote in a letter to parents: “Rather than funding coming via the local authority, Caldew would be funded more directly, much as we were in the 1990s during our successful years as a GM school. As a ‘converter’, we would enjoy more flexibility with our budget, with the curriculum, and with the plans that we are making to develop and improve the school further in the coming years.”

William Howard, Caldew and Trinity Schools have also tried to allay fears of staff over how their terms and conditions would be affected. Academies are not bound by national and local pay agreements for teaching and support staff but existing workers would remain on the recognised levels.

Other schools looking into converting to academy status include Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Penrith; Appleby Grammar School; Kirkby Stephen Grammar School; Cockermouth School and Keswick School.


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