Campaigners fight academy plans for top South Shields school

From left the Green Party's Shirley Ford, with  Dave Herbert, Roger Nettleship and Tony Bengtsson, and their petition.
From left the Green Party's Shirley Ford, with Dave Herbert, Roger Nettleship and Tony Bengtsson, and their petition.

A petition has been launched against plans for a South Tyneside school's second academy status bid.

Parents of students at Harton Technology College in South Shields, were informed of the plans via a text message on Friday which encouraged them visit the school’s website.

In January 2015 governors ruled against making an immediate application for academy status - which would mean the school in Lisle Road, South Shields, would be run independently, removed from local authority control and overseen by a not-for-profit business, known as an academy trust, which are often part of a chain.

It would also mean the school had control over its own finances and curriculum.

The Green Party, along with the South Tyneside Public Service Alliance (PSA) ,have now relaunched their original petition - which was never submitted due to the original bid being pulled- in an attempt to stop the school from becoming an academy.

Gemma Taylor, of the PSA, said: “We won the battle the last time and here we are again with a fight on our hands.

“We found out about these plans only as parents received their text messages and now the school is closed for a week due to half term.

“Why fix something that isn’t broken’.

A consultation period will now be held until June 30 and a information sheet, about multi-academy trusts, is available for parents to download from the website.

The move has alarmed Green Party activist Shirley Ford who has a child at the school and fought against the proposals the first time.

She said: “We fought against these proposals he last time and now it’s been brought back to the table.

“To make matters worse we receive a text on Friday informing us that we are now in a consultation period - right before half term begins.

“It’s ridiculous and very worrying as this is a brilliant school.

“My concern is that once the school is removed from the community it’s in. It becomes a business and business often fail.”

She added: “It will be out there on it’s own. It will no no longer have the help of the local authority, nor the backing of a diocese as many faith school have who have become academies.

“If something goes wrong then it’s out children’s educations which are at risk.”

In March, as part of the Budget, chancellor George Osborne revealed plans for all schools to be an academy by 2022 and last month it was revealed new legislation will include sweeping powers for the Department of Education to force schools in “underperforming” local authorities to convert to academy status.

Coun Joan Atkinson, lead member for children and young people at South Tyneside Council, said: “We are aware of the consultation taking place and would encourage parents to get involved to ensure that their voices are heard.

“We prefer the local authority-maintained model of education because we believe that we are stronger together. School governing bodies already have significant control over their budgets, staff, pupil numbers and almost all policies. Local authorities only offer additional support and guidance when requested.

“In South Tyneside the current model is extremely effective with 95 per cent of Council-maintained schools rated as good or outstanding by Ofsted - well above the national average of 82 per cent.”

The school did not wish to comment on the issue.

To sign the petition click here.
To read more about Harton Technology College's academy bid, click here