TWO more South Tyneside schools have this week launched bids to convert to academy status, it has emerged.
The coalition Government’s academy policy was introduced in the summer of 2010. It removes schools from local authority control and gives them the freedom to spend their own budgets.
Since the policy was introduced, five borough schools have gone down the academy route.
They are Whitburn Church of England Academy, Monkton Junior and Infant Schools and Ridgeway Primary School, all South Shields, and, in July of last year, St Joseph’s Catholic Academy in Hebburn.
Only last week, borough education chiefs had been confident no more schools had planned to apply for academy status in the near future.
But within the last few days, two more have passed resolutions to follow suite – Cleadon Village Primary School, in Boldon Lane, and Holy Trinity School in Brockley Avenue, South Shields.
At yesterday’s People Select Committee, Peter Cutts, the council’s head of Education, Learning and Skills, said: “At the time of writing our report we were not aware of any other schools that had applied for academy status, but we were informed last week that two Church of England, voluntary-aided schools, had passed resolutions to start the process to become academies.”
Both schools will now enter a consultation period with parents.
Labour’s Coun Joan Atkinson, the council’s lead member for Children, Young People and Families, issued a plea for schools to stay in the local authority “family”.
She said: “What we want is an open and honest dialogue.
“What we know is that there are so-called advantages of going the academy route, but what we also know is that there are many, many disadvantages, and let’s remind ourselves that schools that stay within the family of the local authority are not controlled by the local authority, they have their own autonomy.
“I would welcome open and honest discussions with schools thinking about going the academy route.”
Coun Margaret Meling, who represents Cleadon and East Boldon for Labour, intends to campaign against the latest academy bids.
She said: “I know that legally we can’t be seen to take sides or intervene, but there are other ways to skin a cat.
“I want to be clear, especially as one of the schools is in my ward, over what I can do to highlight the disadvantages of being an academy, and lay to rest the so-called advantages to my neighbours whose children are going to that school.”