Protest over school academy plan

PROTEST ... ,St Joseph's RC Comprehensive, Hebburn.
PROTEST ... ,St Joseph's RC Comprehensive, Hebburn.

UNION members will lobby governors debating controversial plans to transform a South Tyneside school into an academy.

Opposition is growing against plans to turn St Joseph’s RC Comprehensive School in Mill Lane, Hebburn, into a multi-academy site.

Coun John McCabe, a foundation governor at the school for almost 10 years, has slammed the move as ‘anti-Christian’ and ‘elitist’.

But chairman of governors, Terence Carney, said the school will remain at the heart of the community, with academy status giving St Joseph’s more control over its academic and financial future.

The Public Service Alliance, made up of union members and local councillors opposed to the academy plan, will lobby governors, before their meeting at the Hebburn school, at 5pm on Tuesday.

St Joseph’s was transformed through a £27m Government-led Building Schools for the Future (BSF) scheme – from public funds.

Coun McCabe said: “These plans by the school have upset me and I remain bitterly opposed to St Joseph’s becoming an academy.

“There has supposedly been a consultation process, but all the material which has been sent out by the school seems to be weighted in favour of pushing ahead to academy status, while there seems little about the negatives, such as the fact that the governors themselves will be liable if the academy doesn’t work out.

“I believe this is just being railroaded through. All the Hebburn councillors are opposed to the school becoming an academy, which we see as an elitist scheme that will create a two-tier system for pupils.”

Tina Roche, assistant branch secretary of Unison on South Tyneside, said: “We will be lobbying governors at the school to oppose the academy plan.

“The Public Service Alliance, which includes the main teaching unions, such as the NUT, remains opposed to schools becoming academies. There will be banners and we will be handing out material to the school governors.”

Coun Richard Porthouse, a Hebburn councillor and union member, said: “I will be joining the lobby, as I am totally against St Joseph’s becoming an academy.

“The school was rebuilt recently with £27m of public money, but making it an academy is just privatisation by the back door.”

Mr Carney said the ultimate decision will lie with the Catholic Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle.

He said: “Academy status is being considered because we are looking at the future viability of the school, at a time of great uncertainty within public finances.

“The governors could make a decision by this Easter, but if they approve the move, this may not be formalised until the start of the next school year, in September.”

Twitter: @terrykelly16