West Park school step closer to academy status

West Park Primary School
West Park Primary School

PLANS for an “outstanding” primary school to become an academy have moved a step closer after the Government backed their proposals.

Governors at West Park Primary School, in Coniscliffe Road, Hartlepool, have had their proposals to convert to academy status backed by Education Secretary Michael Gove.

It is the first school in Hartlepool to consider converting after the Government announced its plans to create hundreds of extra academies across the country.

If the move goes ahead then the school, which was rated outstanding in its last Ofsted inspection, would receive its budget direct from the Government, unlike primary schools which are funded through the local authority.

The school has now entered a period of due diligence which will involve further work on funding arrangements and further consultation to ensure it is in its best interests.

Union representatives, other schools, councillors, staff, parents and pupils have all been consulted and governors say the majority of people have backed the plans.

If it does convert, West Park could become an academy in time for the new school year in September.

Academy status would also give the school freedom to set their own pay and conditions for staff, how they deliver the National Curriculum and change the length of terms and school days.

But governors say there are no plans to change the pay and conditions of staff.

Mr Gove approved the application to become an academy this month.

The school can still pull out of the process as the cut-off point to agree and sign a funding agreement with the Department for Education is not until mid-July.

Ray Priestman, chair of governors at the school, told the Mail: “We have had our academy application approved and we are currently going through the process.

“We have entered a period of due diligence, which includes finalising the funding agreement. That gives us a binding agreement. We can then budget for the funds that would be available to the school.

“Until that is signed then we are not a converted academy.

“We are still not in a situation where we cannot back out.”

West Park Primary School is built on council-owned land so if it did convert then the authority could grant a 125-year lease to the academy.

Property such as tables and chairs would also have to be transferred over.

As previously reported by the Mail, education chiefs at Hartlepool Borough Council have expressed concerns about the proposals over fears from other school’s governing bodies that the move is “divisive” and has the potential to create a two-tier school system in town.

Bill Jordon, headteacher at Dyke House Sports and Technology College, said the secondary school had expressed an interest to become an academy but no application has been made.