Parents’ big fears over new school

GAINING �18 million for an academy for Felixstowe should be excellent news for the town.

But among many parents it has not been heralded as such – with the project greeted with distrust, suspicion, doubt and numerous concerns.

It’s difficult to gather everyone’s fears into one pot because most parents’ worries are personal – how it will affect their children, all at various stages of their school lives – and very different.

Fear of change is the main enemy the Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) has to overcome, especially with both Deben and Orwell high schools on an upward trajectory as far as exam results, teaching and standards are concerned.

Some people are worried about whether the academy will become result-focussed, with students taught how to pass exams rather than being educated.

What will happen to those of lesser abilities, or to those with learning difficulties? Will discipline be extremely strict? Will there be a major change in teaching staff? How much influence will parents and the community have over the running of the school?

Many people are questioning why we need an academy at all.

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That though is not up for discussion.

That debate took place – and was decided – more than a year ago, and since then politics nationally has moved on with the government now aiming to make every school an academy.

It doesn’t really matter if Felixstowe wants one or not, because within five years there will be no option – expect all schools to be removed from local authority control.

The advantage Felixstowe has by joining now is that it gets �18m for a new school instead of just being handed over to a trust to be run.

The town had hoped for �32m – so despite AET’s promise that it wil not be a barn or a hangar, it certainly won’t be anything iconic or special for that sort of money.

It was odd to hear the trust’s chief executive officer David Triggs admit at a public meeting at Deben High that he was “surprised” AET was chosen to run the academy. He then showed a great lack of knowledge about the two schools – not knowing they had a three-lesson two-week timetable, and seemed ready to rip up the town’s new community all-weather pitch.

Parents and teachers feel if AET is to take over then they should spend some time getting to know the schools, preparing teachers staff for change, and drawing up their plans for the academy’s future rather than rushing in this September.

My youngest leaves Deben this summer and so the academy doesn’t affect me personally. I was trying to imagine how I would feel if my sons were say, year six, about to move up to high school, or year nine and looking towards GCSEs.

It is a time of great unknowns, and I can understand and sympathise with parents’ worries – especially over whether the change will directly affect their children, causing them to be unsettled, or receive a different-style of teaching, at a crucial time.

? Give me your views – write to richard.cornwell@eveningstar.co.uk or Your Letters, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

? Read Richard Cornwell’s full column every week in FX – the eight-page pull-out all about the Felixstowe area in the Evening Star every Wednesday.