Second school will become an academy

CLASS WAR ... Unison official Gemma Taylor and Coun John McCabe protest over plans for St Joseph's RC School to become an academy.
CLASS WAR ... Unison official Gemma Taylor and Coun John McCabe protest over plans for St Joseph's RC School to become an academy.

A SECOND South Tyneside senior school is set to become an academy after a controversial governors’ vote this week.

St Joseph’s RC Comprehensive School in Mill Lane, Hebburn, could assume multi-academy status within months, following the example of Whitburn Academy.

But the decision has sparked anger among union officials, who lobbied school governors, who eventually voted 10-to-two in favour of moving towards academy status, after a sometimes-heated three-hour meeting at the school on Tuesday night.

Coun John McCabe, who remains bitterly opposed to the move, has vowed to quit as a foundation governor at the 1,500-pupil school after 10 years, if St Joseph’s becomes an academy.

Coun McCabe, who argued the consultation process for academy status is “flawed,” said: “I’m very disappointed by the vote. I believe academies are about the privatisation of schools, and while I respect the headteacher and the board of governors, I believe sponsorship does lead to elitism.

“I think the decision could affect admissions and that the school could start to lose its Catholic ethos.

“I’m hoping for a miracle, bigger than God challenging St Paul on the road to Damascus, and that this decision will be unsuccessful, but I suspect St Joseph’s will become an academy, when I will have to resign from the board.”

About 25 members of the Public Service Alliance (PSA), including Unison officials, staged a lobby outside the school before this week’s meeting.

PSA officials later made a plea to governors to reject academy status, but the eventual vote was overwhelmingly in favour.

Gemma Taylor, area organiser of Unison and co-ordinator of South Tyneside PSA, speaking before the vote, said: “We don’t think that the consultation has been carried out properly and we want people to know that.

“We don’t see who would benefit from being taken out of the control of the local education authority. St Joseph’s is a good, high-achieving school and we don’t see why it needs academy status.”

Merv Butler, branch secretary of Unison South Tyneside, said: “We continue to oppose the transformation of all schools in South Tyneside into academies. Academies are schools with no local links to the community or local council, but funded by the taxpayer.”

A representative from South Tyneside local education authority spoke at the meeting against the Hebburn school going independent.

There is anger about the move, after £27m of public money was recently spent on transforming St Joseph’s through the Government-backed Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme.

The school could be granted academy status as early as September.

Twitter: @terrykelly16Second