Academy-bid school racing to avoid £100K penalty

OPPONENT ... Coun John McCabe, who has threatened to quit as a St Joseph's governor over academy plans.
OPPONENT ... Coun John McCabe, who has threatened to quit as a St Joseph's governor over academy plans.

A SOUTH Tyneside school seeking academy status faces a race against time – or it could lose up to £100,000 in education cash.

Governors at St Joseph’s RC Comprehensive School in Mill Lane, Hebburn, have to meet a July 1 deadline set by the Government.

If the school fails to meet the deadline, they could lose out on what chairman of governors Terence Carney admitted was “a substantial sum of money”.

Although the Catholic Hexham and Newcastle Diocese recently backed the school’s moves towards academy status, the plans have sparked controversy.

Coun John McCabe has threatened to quit as a governor at the school over the plans, and remains bitterly opposed to academies.

He said: “The school could lose between £80,000 and £100,000 in funding, if it doesn’t meet this deadline.

“While this represents only a proportion of the school’s overall budget, it’s not a negligible sum.

“I think this indicates how schools have to meet a series of deadlines and jump through hoops as part of the academy process.

“This is all about central Government setting deadlines and targets, to persuade schools to sign up for academy status. If the school fails to meet the July 1 deadline, it will lose a lot of money.

“The problem with academies is they produce short-term gain for long-term pain.”

Earlier this year, Coun McCabe joined a lobby outside the school, along with members of the Public Service Alliance (PSA) and Unison officials, as part of a protest against what the unions see as the ‘privatisation’ of education and funds being directed away from state schools.

There was added anger after £27m of public money was invested into the transformation of St Joseph’s during the past two years, as part of the Government-backed Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme.

But the Department for Education (DfE) say academy status gives schools more autonomy over their future, freedom from local authority control, plus greater powers over curriculum delivery, staff pay and conditions, plus school terms and holidays.

The DfE says academies are aimed at providing schools with maximum support, allowing pupils to meet their full potential.

Chairman of governors, Mr Carney, who has helped steer St Joseph’s towards academy status, said: “There are financial penalties, the later a school formally applies to become an academy.

“We need to fulfil all the various legal procedures and tie up all the paperwork for the Secretary of State for Education by July 1.

“If this slips until September, the difference could represent a substantial amount of money.”

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