OPPOSITION to any move to convert a high-performing South Tyneside secondary school into an academy is growing.
At The Nook in South Shields over the weekend, members of the borough’s Green Party helped launch a petition against a bid being made by Harton Technology College.
At the launch was Shirley Ford, the Green’s Parliamentary candidate for South Shields at May’s General Election.
Mrs Ford believes academy status will result in governors “no longer being accountable to the local community”.
Her message was “If it ain’t broke – don’t fix it”.
She said: “We found almost everyone we spoke to agreed that this would be bad for the school, the pupils, the staff and the other schools in the borough.
“They were concerned that the promise of more independence was not worth the fact that the governors would no longer be accountable to the local community.”
She added: “Most people agreed with us that the school is already an excellent school – Ofsted has consistently judged it as outstanding – and that there is no need to change it.
“As one parent with children at the school said ‘as the saying goes – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’
“Another worry people expressed was the risk that, in the worst case scenario, as an academy the school would have to close if things go badly. It would have no safety net.
“One dad of young children said to us ‘a school is not like a shop. If it closes down, that would have a terrible impact on the children at the school’.”
Mrs Ford also pointed to the financial difficulties faced by St Joseph’s Catholic Academy in Hebburn since it was granted academy status.
She added: “We had dozens of people sign the petition to the governors of Harton Technology College, because it is not too late to stop this. The decision lies with the governors of the school.
“People took away leaflets to encourage their family and friends to sign the online version of the petition as well on Change.org.
“They all felt that this school is part of our community and should stay that way.”
The petition was launched by the South Tyneside Public Services Alliance, which brings together trade unions and community groups in the borough campaigning to defend public services, and which the South Tyneside Green Party actively supports.