Academy status looms for Holywells

DESPITE opposition from staff, parents, students and governors, an Ipswich high school has today been marked down for academy status.

DESPITE opposition from staff, parents, students and governors, an Ipswich high school has today been marked down for academy status.

A long running battle against Suffolk County Council plans to transform the status of the Holywells High has been brought to an end by a decision to offer possession of the school to a private sponsor.

Local education chiefs said that should Holywells not welcome the changes and levels of achievement do not significantly increase within the next two years, the school would be forced to close and an academy opened in its place.

The announcement has angered members of the NASUWT teachers' union who have resisted the prospect of an independent backer setting its own pay and conditions for staff.

Keith Anderson, of NASUWT, commented on the union's disagreement with academy status and argued that sponsors are not obliged to provide extra funding for schools.

He said: “We are opposed to the idea of academies and believe the privatisation of state schools is wrong. There is no proof that it will raise standards.”

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Holywells was this month also judged to be an improving school by Ofsted inspectors - a verdict that was welcomed by staff and governors who have championed the school's recent advances during the course of what they saw as a hostile approach by the council to transform Holywells into an academy.

Acting headteacher Terry Duffell said the tone of the report acknowledged the considerable achievements and progress made over the last year.

“This is a rapidly improving school that is confident in its capacity to make further progress,” he said.

“Comments such as 'the school has improved significantly' and 'improvements have been dramatic' are very gratifying.”

Academy status will mean public assets being handed over to an as yet unknown private sponsor. By September 2010 the management of the school could be handled by anyone from a big business, voluntary sector organisation, or faith community - an option preferred by the council but publicly opposed by the school.

The council will now begin advertising for a sponsor to take over the school.

Rosalind Turner, director for children and young people said: “If we act now the school's governing body, staff and local people will be able to work with the county council to develop the academy.

“If we delay the government will take the decision making power away from the school and appoint a new governing body to oversee the setting up of the academy. We want the school to shape its own future rather than having something imposed on it.”

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