Double blast at academies

Blackpool Council Leader Simon Blackburn.
Blackpool Council Leader Simon Blackburn.
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The “creeping academisation” and “influence of private money” on Blackpool schools has today been criticised by worried council and union bosses.

As five more of the resort’s primary and secondary schools prepare to convert to academy status from September, Blackpool Council leader Simon Blackburn has spoken out about the moves.

He said: “The Labour group is absolutely and fundamentally opposed to the creeping academisation of Blackpool schools.

“Governors and headteachers should be resisting attempts to bring private sponsors into state schools.

“As we have previously stated, we will back pupils, parents, staff and trade unions in their opposition to the creeping privatisation of the education system under this Government.”

From September three of the resort’s primary schools, Devonshire, Anchorsholme and Park, have opted to form a multi-academy trust together.

Unity College in North Shore is also converting, to join the Fylde coast Teaching School Alliance, which also includes Hodgson Academy in Poulton and Montgomery High School in Bispham.

An academy is a publicly funded school free from local authority control, overseen by sponsors which can be charitable or commercial.

Palatine Community Sports College has been handed an academy order by Department for Education (DfE) bosses after Ofsted inspectors slammed the South Shore secondary as “inadequate” and “requiring improvement”.

Coun Blackburn added that, in cases such as this, as much as possible should be done to bring in “genuine” sponsors.

He added: “If academy status is absolutely necessary or unavoidable – as in the case of schools deemed by Ofsted to be ‘failing’ – we should look for public sector or genuine charitable sponsors, or finding other ways of managing the situation to avoid the influence of private money being brought to bear.”

Union bosses today praised the council leader for taking a stand against academies.

John Girdley, Lancashire’s national executive member for the NASUWT, said: “I applaud Simon Blackburn if he’s calling on heads and governors to resist (the academy movement) and I will be calling on teachers to resist it.

“I sincerely hope there is a movement to resist what is going on. Finally people are getting wise to what is going on.

“It is genuinely creeping privatisation and creeping profit taking.”

Peter Marsden, Blackpool branch secretary for Unison, said: “Our position is in common with Simon Blackburn. Our concern is the break-up of local schools.”

A DfE spokesman said: “With results in academies improving far faster than the national average, it is no wonder that so many already successful schools want to convert and drive up standards even further.”

“In addition we will not stand by when a school is underperforming and its pupils are being failed. We believe the best way to turn around such schools is under the guidance of experienced academy sponsors with a track record of success.”

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