School’s academy status bid

West Park Primary School
West Park Primary School

BOSSES at an “outstanding” primary school are considering plans to become an academy in a bid to give them greater control of their finances and curriculum.

Governors at West Park Primary School, in Coniscliffe Road, Hartlepool, are currently consulting over their plans to convert to academy status from the start of September, this year.

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 their last Ofsted inspection, would receive its budget direct from the government, unlike primary schools which are funded through the local authority.

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.

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.

School governors asked the council, along with union representatives, other schools, councillors, staff, parents and pupils, to respond to their consultation by the start of last week.

The board of governors is expected to meet imminently to discuss the consultation response, before deciding whether to apply to the Secretary of State to convert to academy status.

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.

A report by Caroline O’Neill, the council’s assistant director for performance and achievement, said: “It is likely the school will convert to academy status, regardless of the views of the local authority.

“Therefore in the interests of all learners it is recommended that the council continues to work in partnership for the benefit of that group of Hartlepool children.

“The local authority will continue to have a range of functions to fulfil, including admission arrangements for pupils, so will need to and want to work in partnership with the school in future in order to fulfil those remaining duties for the benefit of all learners.”

In a consultation document, Ray Priestman, chair of governors at the school, said: “Having carefully considered the issues, the Governing Body believes that becoming an academy may now be in the best interests of the school, its children and the local community.”

He added: “A Consultation Summary Document will be released following the meeting, summarising the outcome of the process.

“If the decision is taken to proceed with the conversion process, West Park Primary School is likely to become an academy on 1st September 2011.”