Teachers union wary of academy plans

UNION bosses have today criticised Suffolk education chiefs and called for more transparency when singling out schools for academy status.

UNION bosses have today criticised Suffolk education chiefs and called for more transparency when singling out schools for academy status.

During a visit to Holywells High School, president of the teachers' union NASUWT Amanda Haehner, stressed that more should be done to highlight the potential pitfalls of the process, which can jeopardise staff pay and conditions.

Holywells was last week told it will become an academy after a long-running feud between school governors and Suffolk County Council.

Ms Haehner addressed concerned union members at the school on the issue of academies saying: “We believe schools should remain under public control but understand there are other political views on the way schools should be managed.

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“We want staff pay and conditions to be maintained. This is an orderly school and not one in need of immediate intervention. It is to the credit of the staff and pupils that the school has improved so much.”

Earlier this month a controversial plan to turn a Derby school into an academy was scrapped because of opposition from staff on strike, pupils and parents.

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Ms Haehner suggested union members at Holywells may choose to replicate the actions of their Derby counterparts, saying: “Pay and conditions are dependant on the sponsor. In the past sponsors have tried to vary them and not always to the benefit of the staff. The community often doesn't get what has been promised to them.”

Meanwhile, Suffolk county secretary for the NASUWT, Keith Anderson disputed the accuracy of an ultimatum given to Holywells governors by the council regarding school buildings investment money.

He said: “We are very concerned when schools are told that unless they accept one thing, they will be deprived of another thing.

“The council has previously said the money is a condition of becoming an academy, but we have assurance from the Minister of State for Schools that it is not a requirement.”

Another facet that worries union bosses in the council's proposal is the manner in which a sponsor is found. At the end of this week and advert will be placed in the education supplement of a national newspaper to find a sponsor.

Mr Anderson said: “Schools are usually approached by a sponsor, but advertising for one has, as far as we're aware, never been done before. This isn't the way education should be treated. It's a school, not a local shop.”

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