�1m payout for teachers who turned backs on academies
Josie Hinton COUNCIL bosses have spent more than �1million on compensation packages for teachers who refused to transfer to its struggling academies. Westminster s education chiefs have confirmed they forked out �1,293,217 to pay off the 54 members of sta
COUNCIL bosses have spent more than �1million on compensation packages for teachers who refused to transfer to its struggling academies.
Westminster's education chiefs have confirmed they forked out �1,293,217 to pay off the 54 members of staff in the borough who did not join the government's controversial academy programme.
North Westminster Community School (NWCS) was replaced by the Westminster and Paddington Academies in 2006, after the government deemed the school was failing.
Despite two new state-of-the art buildings, critics argue Westminster's flagship academies have failed to provide the solution to long-standing problems. And the latest revelation about staff redundancies has fuelled further criticism of the burdening cost of the academies programme to the taxpayer.
Jeff Bates, Westminster NUT representative, said: "It's a terrible waste and we're not seeing the proposed benefits. The schools are not achieving what they were supposed to do. If they had put all the money that has gone into the academies into the existing structures, they would have seen more success."
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In January, Westminster Academy was branded a "failing" school for the second year running after falling short of the government benchmark of 30 per cent A* to C grades at GCSE including English and maths.
While Paddington Academy has made rapid improvements in the two years since it opened, critics say its standards still fall short of national expectation. It was taken off the failing list for the first time in January, surpassing the government target with a figure of 38 per cent.
Michael Pyke, a spokesman for the Campaign for State Education (CASE), said it was no surprise teachers were reluctant to transfer to the new structure.
"It's not a surprise to learn these kind of payments have gone to paying off teachers, which is a great waste of talent," he said.
"We would understand why any teacher wouldn't want to transfer to an academy because of the inferior conditions of employment.
"They don't have the same rights as teachers in state education. They are in effect employed by the academy foundation which can set its own terms, and is not accountable to local government control."
But a council spokeswoman denied teachers were reluctant to transfer to the academies.
She said: "In 2006, North Westminster Community School was closed and turned into two academies. One school was being turned into two academies and it was therefore essential to have a fair proportion of staff with necessary experience and skills at each of the two new schools.
"As the old school was operating from three sites this meant there were exceptionally high staffing levels as a number of posts had to be replicated on each site.
"Teachers and other members of staff were not reluctant to transfer to the new academies programme but in fact opted for voluntary redundancy packages."
Both academies were blighted with problems before they opened, including delays in building works, contractors going bust, planning arguments and massive levels of debt.
The problems at Paddington Academy's former campus were portrayed in a BBC Newsnight documentary.