A PRESTIGIOUS South Tyneside school will not be making an imminent bid to become an academy.
Governors at Harton Technology College have ruled out making an application for the school to leave local education authority control and take over the running of its own finances and curriculum.
The move has been welcomed by council bosses, trade unionists and political activists.
Sir Ken Gibson, the college’s executive headteacher, said the decision had been taken by governors following a widespread consultation process.
But he added a proviso that academy status was not being sought “at this moment in time”.
Academies opponent Shirley Ford, Green Party Parliamentary candidate for South Shields and parent of a pupil at Harton, expressed the hope that this doesn’t leave the door open for a bid in the not-so-distant future.
Sir Ken Gibson said: “The governors have listened to the views of staff, parents, unions, the local authority and other stakeholders and have decided not to proceed with Harton Technology College becoming an academy at this moment in time.
“Our main aim is to continue to be an outstanding school in every respect for our students and to enjoy our additional roles as a National Teaching School and National Support School.”
Coun Joan Atkinson, the council’s lead member for children, young people and families, said: “I am delighted that governors have come to this decision. I believe we are stronger together and that effective co-operative working between the local authority and our schools is proven as evidenced in our Ofsted ratings, exam results and in school improvement across the borough and beyond.
“Harton Technology College is an outstanding teaching school and we value its extensive contribution towards school improvement across the South Tyneside family of schools.
“In considering the role of the local authority and recognising the very special relationship it has with all schools, the governors at Harton Technology College had a compelling case for staying within the local authority family. The determination to achieve the best for our children and young people is at the heart of this decision and central to the council’s vision.”
Mrs Ford said: “There was no popular outcry for the school to become an academy. I hope this decision by the governors is the end of the matter but it may not be.
“A general election is looming and if the Conservatives are elected with an overall majority, they want more schools to become academies.
“I hope that the school governors have listened to parents and the wider community, and will now continue to work in partnership with us all, for the pupils, the staff, the other schools in the borough and the common good.”
Merv Butler, branch secretary of Unison South Tyneside and chairman of the borough’s Public Services Alliance, which organised an online petition against Harton becoming an academy expressed his delight at the vote – and called for a radical re-think on academies as a whole.
Mr Butler said: “This decision is completely right and I think the time is right now to re-look at the whole academy system. Harton Technology College is a very important school to this borough and this is really very good news.”
Academy election debate
THE future of academies could be a major issue during the forthcoming general election campaign.
The two major political parties have different plans for academies if they are voted into power.
But both are committed to their continuation in some form.
Since the Academies Programme was first launched by Tony Blair and Andrew Adonis in 2004, the number of academies in England has grown steadily.
Originally, Labour envisaged that failing schools in disadvantaged areas should become academies.
The Tory-led coalition government broadened that policy remit to include all schools when it came to power in 2010
Labour would continue to allow good and outstanding schools to convert to academy status, according to Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt.
But a Labour government would be unlikely to give subsidies to schools seeking to convert – as has happened with the coalition government.
Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, is sceptical of the benefits academies provide, saying recently: “Academies have not proved to be a driver of excellence. For every outstanding academy one can easily find a state-maintained school that equals them.”