Prince Henry’s Grammar School governors will decide next month whether the School should become an Academy.
Academy status means ‘extra money’ and ‘extra freedoms’ for the school.
Yet the governors are divided and many staff and parents, the town council and other community voices are against the move. What are the arguments against?
The ‘extra money’ for becoming an academy would be less than 5 per cent of the school’s annual budget and only guaranteed for two years.
There is no extra Government money — it comes out of the overall schools budget.
This reduces money for other local schools and the local authority services they call on, such as support for children with special educational needs.
An academy is ‘free’ from local authority support and can buy in services from a commercial company or employ additional staff. But unknown costs can eat up the extra money.
Ilkley Grammar, now an academy, recently advertised for a financial director at around £60,000 a year.
Chippendale Swimming Pool is owned by Prince Henry’s but subsidised by the council at around £70,000 a year. Could the academy afford to run the pool without this subsidy?
The ‘extra freedoms’ will radically change how the school is run and its future direction.
The local community will have no say in how the school is governed. At present, about half the governors are democratically elected parents or teachers’ representatives. They can be held to account for their decisions.
An academy would no longer be accountable to parents, the local community or the local authority.
Three or four founding governors of the academy trust will have the power to appoint all the other governors, apart from two elected parent governors. A new academy is required to transfer present staff across on current terms and conditions but governors then have immediate powers to change these at any time.
Staff fear governors will cut their working conditions to save money.
Above all, how will the academy affect local children? There are plans for a new ‘teaching partnership’ with other academies – Harrogate Grammar, Rossett School, Harrogate, and Ilkley Grammar. Would Prince Henry’s focus more on this ‘prestige’ partnership than on local children and primary schools?
Would it eventually become selective, leaving out some local children? Ilkley Grammar, for example, now only admits sixth form students with five Bs at GCSE.
Local families will be living with the impact of these changes when the present head and governors are long gone. There is no going back — an academy must give seven years notice to change its status.
The town council has made a unanimous appeal to governors to hold a democratic parent ballot. The school belongs to its local community, not to a future handful of unelected governors Councillor John Eveleigh Otley Town Council leader