The downside of academy status

SIR - Before Sidmouth College Governors, alone, decide on academy status, they need to consider that, once a local school becomes an academy, there is no way back!

Academies are schools with no local links to the community or the council, but are funded by the taxpayer. In effect, they are state-funded private schools, usually with a big business (or other) sponsor, who gets everything the school owns, including its land and buildings. They also get a say on which subjects are taught and how.

The Freedom of Information Act no longer applies! Academy governors are appointed, not elected!

True, that the school will receive a grant of �25,000 to assist with the costs of conversion; and spend about 7% extra, which is currently spent on its behalf by the Local Authority on support services etc.

However, the school will now individually have to pay for SEN support and service; links to health and social care services; human resources provision; legal advice; buildings upkeep and maintenance; insurance cover for liabilities up to �10m; ICT support etc, through commercial contracts which can be very expensive.

The Government effectively takes over the role of the local authority, so, if you have a problem, you have to contact Whitehall, rather than the LA education office, which already knows the school well.

Some people argue that Academies undermine local authorities and national pay and conditions for those who teach our children. They break up local common admission arrangements and local planning of school places; whilst having a damaging effect on other local schools. Some evidence would suggest that Academies increase the segregation and exclusion of the poorest and most disadvantaged of our children.

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It is also illuminating to note that, whilst academies/free schools received an additional �855m in 2010-11, the children/families received �829m less!

Making Sidmouth College an Academy would, in effect, leave the local community paying for the school, but having no say about how it is run; and, once a local school becomes an Academy, there appears to be no way back! The Governors have a great deal to think about before they irrevocably act.

Paul Prosser

Woolbrook Rise