Head denies rushing academy move

BACKWELL School’s headteacher has denied claims the move to change the school to an academy has been rushed through following at a meeting of union representatives and parents.

On Monday, the governing body will meet to confirm whether the school will change to academy status on April 1.

However, at a meeting organised by the National Union of Teachers on February 15, some people asked why the school seemed to be rushing such an important decision.

Former Backwell School governor Sarah LeFanu said: “We all feel that Backwell is an excellent school.

“By rushing into academy status we could be jeopardising this.”

North Somerset NUT secretary Jon Reddiford said: “There is an awful lot of risk involved. Should asbestos be discovered currently the local authority would pay for that as they would for redundancy, long term sick and maternity leave payments. That would come directly out of an academy’s budget.”

Parents of primary school pupils due to move to Backwell School also raised concerns about the amount of information given to them.

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Headteacher Julian Baldwin believes parents, teachers and other interested parties have had enough time to ask questions and raise concerns since the idea of changing to academy status was first put to them in July.

He said: “The whole decision-making and information-giving process has been going on since July - that is not a rush.

“We have had, and still have, a very open and thorough consultation process with parents, teachers and the community.”

During last week’s meeting at Backwell Playhouse Theatre, which was attended by about 25 people, an officer for the Anti Academies Alliance, Sara Tomlinson, said: “The real worry that we have is there is a lack of accountability.

“You can have a school with a great headteacher that promises a lot but that person may not be there forever.”

To ensure the current principles of Backwell School remain in place, they will be included in a charter. It is also intended to include a stipulation so that changes can only be made when 75 per cent of the governing body agree.

The move to an academy will mean the school will be directly funded by the Government, rather than the local education authority (LEA), allowing it more financial control.

Currently the LEA deducts seven per cent of Backwell’s student funding to put toward support services. NUT members have raised concerns that if more schools become academies this direct funding could diminish.

Mr Baldwin said: “If we have a pupil that needs support, for example with language or behaviour, we will use the money that we will get directly in the best possible way to support that student.

“The LEA does not have to then provide these services free of charge and then we can use the services we want.”

*Anyone wanting to find out more about the potential move to academy status can email academyfeedback@backwellschool.net