Loggerheads over school’s academy bid

George Harris, headteacher at Dene Community School, in Peterlee.
George Harris, headteacher at Dene Community School, in Peterlee.

TEACHERS are at loggerheads over plans to turn a school into an academy.

Dene Community School headteacher George Harris wants the Peterlee school to apply for academy status.

Under the plans, the Manor Way-based school would receive its budget direct from the Government, unlike secondary schools which are funded through Durham County Council.

The school, currently undergoing a £14.7m transformation under the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) scheme, would also have the freedom to set its own pay and conditions for staff, the way it delivers the National Curriculum and change the length of terms and school days.

But the National Association of Schoomasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), the largest teachers’ union in the UK, say the majority of the union’s members at the school, which has 47 teaching staff, are against the plans.

Michelle Williams, National Executive member for NASUWT, said: “There’s absolutely nothing in it for members.

“The reasons schools give for converting to academies just don’t hold up under scrutiny.

“People believe in a good State education for pupils.

“It should be part of the family of schools in Durham, accountable not only to the public but to the local authority.

“In an academy, all of that goes.”

Ms Williams expressed concerns for a potential of staff cuts if academies run into financial difficulties.

Headteacher Mr Harris conceded that NASUWT was against the plans, which have been adopted by 20 per cent of secondary schools in County Durham in the past year.

But he said: “We will be able to move the school forward quicker.

“We are considered now to be a rapidly-improving school by Ofsted.

“If we are going to continue at the speed I would like us to, I would like more tools and resources to be able to do that if we become an academy rather than a community school.”

He said the school would be better equipped to “plan pragmatics and financial issues” through handling its own budget and service contracts.

Mr Harris added he wanted the best for pupils and stakeholders and said: “What I wouldn’t want would be for Dene to be seen as a school which wasn’t good enough to become an academy.

“There is a strong body of evidence that the more freedom a school has, the more likely it is to raise standards.”

Parents, carers and other interested parties have until tomorrow to give their views and queries to the school.

Mr Harris and staff members are available on (0191) 5862140.

More information about academies can be found on the Department for Education website, www.education.gov.uk/academies.