Mixed fortunes of schools which became academies

SUCCESS ... Whitburn C of E Academy
SUCCESS ... Whitburn C of E Academy

WHITBURN Church of England School led the way as the first Academy in South Tyneside.

It gained the new status in January 2011, and was also the first voluntary-aided (VA) school in the country to do so.

The two borough secondary schools which have so far taken the academy route have faced contrasting fortunes.

Exam results have improved at Whitburn and the go-ahead has been given for a £1.9m sixth form building.

But the position at St Joseph’s Catholic Academy in Hebburn has been less rosy.

It faced threats of strike action last May by teachers amid concerns over job cuts – less than a year after academy status was granted.

On a happier note, the school enjoyed excellent A-level results last August. There was an overall pass rate of 98.3 per cent at Mill Lane-based academy.

The benefits of academy status are in essence seen as better funding, smaller class sizes and greater flexibility over the curriculum.

Academies differ from conventional schools in many ways.

These include:

* Freedom from local authority control.

* The ability to set their own pay and conditions for staff.

* Freedoms around the delivery of the curriculum.

* The ability to change the lengths of terms and school days.

* Some academies, generally those set up to replace under-performing schools, will have a sponsor.

Sponsors come from a wide range of backgrounds and are held accountable for improving the performance of their schools.

Academies receive the same level of per-pupil funding as they would receive from the local authority as a maintained school, plus additions to cover the services that are no longer provided for them by the local authority.

Academies are also required by law to:

* Have at least two parent-governors.

* Follow the law and guidance on admissions, special educational needs and exclusions as if they were maintained schools.

* Ensure that the school is “at the heart of its community, collaborating and sharing facilities and expertise with other schools and the wider community”.