Schools register to become academies

FOUR Lancaster secondary schools have registered an interest in becoming academies.

Lancaster Royal Grammar School, (LRGS) Lancaster Girls' Grammar School, (LGGS) Ripley St Thomas CE School and Central Lancaster High School have all put their names forward.

The status would mean independence from local education authority control, with academies free to depart from the national curriculum, control their own finances and set teachers' pay.

They would not have to change their names.

The government invited all schools to apply to become academies. Those rated 'Outstanding' by Ofsted, including the four Lancaster schools, could become academies from September.

But teaching unions fear the changes are being rushed and could create a two-tier education system.

Sam Ud-din, Lancaster district NUT secretary, said unions would take industrial action to protect staff from any changes to pay.

"Those children already with the least will have to make do with even less," he said.

Ripley head Liz Nicholls has previously admitted the autumn term could come too soon for the change, and this week, Andrew Jarman, headteacher at LRGS, and Jackie Cahalin, headteacher at LGGS, agreed.

But both said they were open to converting midway through the school year and were consulting parents and staff.

They said they would seek to ensure teachers' pay and conditions did not suffer and that academy status could release extra funding which could be much-needed if the government cuts education funding.

Mr Jarman estimated that the flexibility to commission services such as legal affairs, child protection and human resources independently of Lancashire County Council could leave his school between 80,000 and 400,000 better off each year.

"We do not have enough detail at the moment to make a final decision but we are proceeding with it with due caution," he said.

Mr Jarman said he did not believe a change in status would make a school 'better or worse' or affect the balance of education.

Mrs Cahalin said: "We would retain our ethos as a selective girls' school but this will give us more freedom and it will be good for pupils' education."

Central Lancaster High School and Ripley St Thomas were unavailable to comment, but Central Lancaster governors were meeting to discuss the school's move as the Lancaster Guardian went to press.