Academy bids provoke different schools of thought

STATUS QUO ... Harton Technical College, in South Shields.
STATUS QUO ... Harton Technical College, in South Shields.

SCHOOLS which seek ‘academy awards’ should be encouraged in South Tyneside, according to residents.

Governors at Harton Technology College, in South Shields, had been considering seeking approval from central government to convert it into an academy.

That would have seen the school in Lisle Road – which was rated “outstanding” in its last Ofsted report – taking control of its own finances and curriculum.

After a consultation involving parents, staff and the local community, it was decided against going down the academy route – at the moment.

But the borough does have two other academies in the secondary sector – Whitburn Church of England Academy and St Joseph’s Catholic Academy, in Hebburn.

And a straw poll of borough shoppers found most would welcome more.

Mother-of-nine Marie Clark, 32, of Chichester, South Shields, can see the logic of moves towards academy status, but is more concerned at a lack of discipline within schools.

She said: “Giving more control over the running of a school makes sense because the headteacher and staff know exactly what the individual kids need, whereas a local authority looks at the school as a whole. I believe kids need more authority.

“They get away with too much, and schools are too lenient, there are not enough consequences for their actions.

“I’m not too sure whether extra authority would be achieved by a school being run as an academy or retaining local education control.

“From the experience with my children, I’ve found that there is more control at faith schools, particularly St Wilfrid’s, in South Shields.”

John Harris, 59, from Biddick Hall, said: “I went to St Cuthbert’s, which is now St Wilfrid’s, and I have to admit that I wasn’t a particularly gifted pupil but I was never pressed to be better than I was. If academies are there to push a child to be better academically, I can’t see that as a bad thing.”

Ex-local government officer John Amour, 54, from Jarrow, believes individual schools should not have total autonomy.

He added: “The headteacher and its governors should not have a final say on what happens within a school, you need an input from the outside.

“That’s why I think the involvement of a local education authority is probably a good thing.”

Maria Carr, from Jarrow, has two grand-daughters who attend Harton Technology College, and is delighted at the education they receive there.

She said: “It really is a lovely school and I’m not too sure how an academy could make it any better.

“My younger grand-daughter started there in June and has really settled in, and the older one is in Year 9.

“It has an excellent headteacher in Sir Ken Gibson, and if he did have the final say on what happened in the school, rather than an outside body, I’m sure it would run smoothly.”

Margaret Tulloch, from Biddick Hall, South Shields, added: “I can see academies working well.

“The headteacher should be able to control the finances because he knows what his own school needs and the money to be spent on.

“It’s all about having the independence to spend money where it needs to be spent.”

Sue Glossop-Freebody, 46, manager of the YMCA shop in Ocean Road, South Shields, added: “I know my stock in the shop and the customers, just as a headteacher knows their own school.

“We get a price guide but what sells in the North Shields branch might not necessarily sell here,” she added.