I read, with interest, the decision made by Exmouth Community College to proceed with Academy Status (College embraces Academy Status - February 3).
There are many serious concerns about this course of action and I feel that the following three points, in particular, need to be clarified as a matter of urgency.
Consultation: According to information on the College’s website, the senior team and governors have considered academy status very carefully over the past few months and yet the public consultation period is to last only three weeks. Consultation, though not compulsory, would have given people the chance to air their views before the decision to apply for academy status was taken. Why did this not happen?
Will there be any kind of vote as to the way forward and, if so, who will be eligible to vote, bearing in mind that this change will affect the wider community and not just those who currently study or work at the college.
Accountability: Currently, the college is accountable to the local authority and has to work within its guidelines. Once the college becomes an academy, it will be able to make its own guidelines and will only have to account to the Department for Education.
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The website promises there will be no changes to the composition of the governing body – in fact, not all the existing governors are eligible to continue. Equally, it is not possible to guarantee what decisions a future academy trust or future principal might take.
There could be changes to conditions of service for staff and any changes to the academy’s policies regarding, for example, the curriculum, uniforms or exclusions, could not be challenged through a local appeals process.
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Finance: The additional funding offered to the academy must be very tempting, especially at a time of widespread cuts. However, once the academy has paid for the services currently provided by the local authority, such as transport, legal services and human resources, there is likely to be minimal benefit.
Many promises have been made and I am sure that there is honest intent behind them.
However, once the academy is an independently run school, parents and staff with concerns will find it very much more difficult to have those concerns addressed. April 1 seems all too apt a date for the change, but, sadly, at the moment, it looks as though the joke is on us.
Chair, East Devon Constituency Labour Party,
28 Baton Close, Exmouth.