It looks like another 3 schools in York may opt for “Academy” status. Millthorpe secondary school and two of its feeder primaries, Scarcroft and Knavesmire in South Bank, want to “join forces”.
They are currently consulting on their plans on whether to apply for Multi-Academy Trust status.
The decision has potentially big implications for a wide area with many pupils from Dringhouses Primary school feeding into Millthorpe. There are also issues for the Poppleton Road area as well as Bishopthorpe and Copmanthorpe. Local primary schools there are not apparently being invited to participate in the “closer working arrangements” offered to the Scarcroft and Knavesmire schools.
Nearby secondary schools such as York High could also feel some effect if Millthorpe seeks to “cherry pick” gifted pupils from outside its traditional catchment area.
The three schools involved would be able to operate free of interference (or support) from the York Council. What practical effect this might have is open to debate. The Council, these days, has little involvement with the day to day running of schools. Staff and governors are firmly in control of most decisions. Revenue funding comes direct to the school from central government while capital, for improvements, is also ring fenced.
The main advantage likely to be promoted is an increased in income for the schools involved. Money, which otherwise would come to the York Council to provide services shared by all schools in the City, would instead be top sliced and given to the Academy to manage.
The Academy would control its admission policy and could change the conditions – and pay – of its staff. It has more influence over its curriculum and may choose to focus exam entrants into vocational subjects – potentially providing impressive pass rates.
While some parents are calling for some sort of popular vote on the Academy plan, it is unclear who would participate in such a ballot.
Arguably children at other – non Academy – schools could suffer.
Should their parents have a vote?
Academies rely on taxpayers money to survive.
Should each Academy proposal be subject to a popular referendum?
Yet there is something wrong with a decision being taken by a small group of governors some of whom – employees – might be set to benefit financially from a move to Academy status.
It is clear that the York Council cannot veto the introduction of an Academy so little in the way of political accountability is available to objectors.
Originally introduced by the last Labour government, the number of Academy schools has grown over the last 5 years. There are already six Academy schools in York.
They are Archbishop Holgate’s School, Manor C of E Academy Trust, Robert Wilkinson Primary School, Haxby Road Primary Academy, Huntington Primary School and Poppleton Ousebank Primary School. The last two named schools only converted on 1st April 2015.
In one case the Council picked up a bill of £48,000 in accumulated debts when the school became an Academy.
You can judge how well local Academies are perfuming by viewing their OFSTED (click name below).
- Archbishop Holgates
- Robert Wilkinson
- Haxby Road
- Huntington Primary School
- Poppleton Ousebank
School catchment areas/admission policies are an important factor when comparing exam performance
Taxpayers also need some objective and transparent way of making a judgement on whether their interests are being protected.
The head teacher at Millthorpe, Trevor Burton, criticised OFSTED reports 12 months ago. He claimed that the organisations gradings artificially favoured (selective) grammar schools. The impact that any three school Academy arrangement might have on the eligibility of children to participate successfully in the project will no doubt be a key consideration for decision makers.