Teachers fear for future at academy

STAFF pay and conditions could be under threat at an Ipswich school if a decision is finalised to turn it into a church-run academy.

Tom Potter

STAFF pay and conditions could be under threat at an Ipswich school if a decision is finalised to turn it into a church-run academy.

As revealed in The Evening Star, students at Holywells High spoke out against the possibility of the running of their school being handed over to the Church of England in September.

The students' concerns are now shared by trade unions, who today revealed their opposition to academies' abilities to operate outside the parliamentary approved School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document.

If Holywells becomes an academy, staff contracts will be automatically renewed under transfer of undertaking regulations, unless their employment is terminated for an economic, technical or organisational reason.

Keith Anderson, who represents the teacher's union the NASUWT in the East, believes this will make it easier to sack teachers.

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He said: “If Holywells was to become an academy, staff currently employed by the council would in effect be transferred to the new employer - in this case the Church of England.

“Under the new employer they wouldn't necessarily have the same job. Some may not transfer at all and their contracts be terminated.

“A big concern about academies is that there is no need for the new employer to recognise pay and conditions or trade union rights.”

In response to anxiety from staff members and the NASUWT, a Church of England spokesman said: “These are only guidelines and it shouldn't be interpreted that every school has to be governed by the same regulations.”

In a document entitled 'Church Academies - Sharing Experience: Governance and Transition', on the subject of appointing a principal and other key posts, the church advises decision makers to “consider, agree with co-sponsor, and be able to justify religious discrimination.”

However, Margaret Nelson, spokeswoman for Suffolk Humanist and Secularist Group, said: “Our organisation is totally opposed to faith schools.

“We see this as a way for the Church of England to gain control of a school that has been improving anyway. And the council seem to have made a decision to turn it into an academy some time ago.

“We live in a multicultural society and our group thinks every school should be secular.

“It's a retrograde step. Church of England schools are proven to be selective, taking a lower proportion of children that have free school meals.”

The council stressed that no decision will be made about Holywells until a full public consultation takes place.

- Do you support moves to convert Holywells into an academy? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk