AN education chief today said she was ‘no fan’ of schools being turned into academies – but insisted a planned merger of two Blackpool schools was the only option.
The Gazette revealed on Wednesday how Collegiate High and Bispham High are likely to merge and move to a brand new multi-million pound school on Collegiate’s Blackpool Old Road site in 2015.
The Government says all new schools must be academies, a rule union leaders were today considering taking legal action against.
Worried parents have also contacted school bosses concerned the merger may affect where they enrol their children in future years.
Coun Sarah Riding, cabinet member for education, said rising debts, crumbling school buildings and falling pupil numbers meant a merger in a new 900-place school was the preferred option.
And she refuted claims a commercial sponsor had already been lined up to take over the new, as yet unnamed, school.
She said: “I am not a fan of academies and I understand the concerns of unions over potential businesses being involved.
“But it will be done on the correct basis and I hope it will be someone who can demonstrate an understanding and knowledge of education and will maintain the good relationship our schools have with the local authority.
“The proposed merger is not just about the debt – if it was we would just close Collegiate but that would be a poor response.
“There will be a full consultation but what I would stress to parents is that we have the opportunity to provide pupils with a modern building in which they can get the best possible education.
“Mergers are difficult and we will try to retain the uniqueness of both schools.”
Pete Marsden, from UNISON, said unions will meet with staff at Bispham next week to discuss the shock merger amid growing concerns over redundancies among teachers, catering staff and cleaners.
Blackpool Council will send letters to parents who have applied for places starting at both schools in September.
Collegiate chiefs have agreed to have a consultation, although Bispham governors have not yet made that decision.
Predicted pupil numbers at Collegiate and Bispham High
NOW - 1,335 (492 Collegiate and 843 Bispham High)
2013 - 1,150
2014 - 1,045
2015 - 969
2016 - 883
SEE THE GAZETTE ON MONDAY FOR MORE ON THE COLLEGIATE/BISPHAM MERGER