Three schools vie for academy shift

THREE Morpeth schools believe they are ready to become an academy.

King Edward VI High School, Chantry Middle School and Technology College and Newminster Middle School and Technology College will now be seeking the views of staff, parents and the community to find out if they are keen for the schools to have greater freedom.

In 2009 they formed The Three Rivers Federation to work closer together, which the headteachers believe has helped them become more efficient with their resources and improved the transition process between middle school and high school while keeping all the strengths of the three-tier system in place.

And after researching the technical and financial details of becoming an academy, as well as the pros and cons of doing so, the federation has initiated a formal consultation process about the potential change of status.

The three schools will remain in place and retain their own names.

KEVI Headteacher Simon Taylor said: “As the role of the local authority changes, we find we are less and less dependent on them and are now more than ready to stand on our own feet.

“Converting the federation to an academy trust will give us greater independence and enable us to develop an even better learning experience for our students – it is our vision for excellence in our schools that drives us.”

Critics of academies say that making this change leads to the sponsors, which can be private companies, having an influence on a school’s education, they are less accountable to parents and communities and they result in schools having to take on greater administrative responsibilities and financial burdens.

But Paul Lawrence, Executive Headteacher of Chantry and Newminster, believes that this is a unique opportunity.

“The benefits of academy status for all our students in and around Morpeth are immense,” he said.

“We have great capacity to build upon the many successes of all three schools and are confident that this initiative will move forward the vision and values of The Three Rivers Federation as we aspire to be outstanding in all our practices.”

As the federation has decided to pursue an interest in becoming an academy with the Department for Education, there will now be a consultation period with all stakeholders, which will run until October 31.

A dedicated information website – www.the3rivers.net – is available to facilitate the consultation and a series of meetings is scheduled for staff, parents and the community from September.

Roger Vaughan, Chairman of The Three Rivers Federation, said: “We see the freedoms of becoming an academy as presenting a unique opportunity for our three schools.

“We will be able to build upon the highly successful two years of hard federation by developing outstanding educational provision to best meet the needs of all our students and wider school communities.”

At the end of the consultation period, the governing body will consider all of the information collected before making a decision.

Mr Vaughan stressed that governors will only proceed to academy status if they are convinced that it will be in the best interests of the whole school community.