Academy move could free up £80,000 a year for Sidmouth Primary School

Paul Walker.

Paul Walker. - Credit: Archant

Sidmouth Primary School will be free to continue achieving the best for its pupils if it becomes an academy, according to its headteacher.

Announcing the proposed conversion, Paul Walker said leaving county council control could free up £80,000-a-year and let the school spend the money on the services it really needs.

But he said the move is less about finances and more about it shaping its own future, rather than having decisions imposed on it from above.

“We’ve set up a school that is very successful, but we are beginning to find pressure,” said Mr Walker. “It’s becoming harder to maintain the standards we are used to. We want to become more of a shaper than a follower. For parents and children, we will still be Sidmouth Primary School. It won’t change on a day-to-day basis, but [becoming an academy] gives us more freedom – we can be more creative in how we approach teaching and assessments.”

The school is already in a federation with others in Musbury and Hawkchurch, which will become academies run by the same trust under the proposals. It will share resources and expertise with the First Federation Trust.

The funding formula will remain the same, but the school will have more say on how it spends its budget – which could be upped by some £80,000 as it takes on new responsibilities for choosing services it needs.

The Diocese of Exeter will continue to oversee the school, but its leadership will answer directly to a Department for Education regional commissioner, rather than a local authority ‘middle man’.

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Academies do not have to follow the national curriculum, but the school would still be subject to Ofsted inspection. Sidmouth primary is currently rated ‘good with outstanding features’. The trust’s vision is to make all of its schools ‘outstanding’ overall. Writing in the school newsletter, Mr Walker said: “Over recent years, the role of the local authority has changed in schools.

“We have seen a number of changes to the curriculum and the ways that we work that only apply to maintained (local authority) schools. Academies have more freedoms that can be used for the benefit of our children.”

Pupils were sent home with a consultation document this week. Parents can hear more on the proposals at a meeting at the Woolbrook Road site at 6pm on Monday, March 14. The governing body will make a final decision in May.