Academy status is a big step for school to take

AN outstanding school will only become an academy if it brings a better financial deal overall, its headteacher has said.

Quintin Kynaston Community School in Marlborough Hill, St John’s Wood, has registered an interest in becoming an academy.

But headteacher Jo Shuter told the Ham&High that the school will only free itself from local authority control if the arrangement results in a better financial deal.

“We are in the process of watching, waiting and digesting the pros and cons of changing our status,” Ms Shuter said. “Essentially it will be a financial decision for us.”

Academies were the brainchild of New Labour, primarily designed to improve failing schools.

They are state funded, but outside of local government control, allowed to set their own curriculum as long as it is “broad and balanced”, are responsible for their own admissions, but bound by the admissions code and are able to set their own terms and conditions for teachers and staff.

When the coalition came to power, the new education secretary, Michael Gove, invited outstanding schools, such as QK, to become academies.

Most Read

But as QK became a foundation school two years ago, the governors already have control over teachers’ pay, employment and they own the site.

The main benefit for QK would be if it were to receive more money as a result of funding coming directly from the government and bypassing Westminster Council.

But Ms Shuter said that it was still a huge decision for the school, which has 1,500 pupils, to take because it prides iself on being an inclusive, community school.

She explained: “Quintin Kynaston is fundamentally a community school and it’s a really critical part of our ethos. That’s why we kept community in our title when we became a foundation school two years ago.”

One reason why Ms Shuter is more keen on academies under this government is because they have moved away from the idea that big businesses or wealthy individuals should sponsor a school – and have an influence over its philosophy.

She said: “Academies were seen to be a particular type of schools, attracting support and backing from a sponsor but that’s not something which really co-exists with our ethos.

“There are a whole raft of reasons why an individual or organisation may wish to sponsor an academy. They may want to have a legacy in terms of education or promote a particular ideology.

“An extreme example of this would be if someone was a BNP supporter. Theoretically, if it wasn’t known upfront that they held those views you could have someone opening an academy to permeate a particular ideology or philosphy through schools.

“Now that’s changing. The new academy concept simply allows outstanding schools to become academies without linking up with external sponsors or organisations. The new style of academies, based on the outstanding schools label, could serve a purpose.

“But the whole notion of becoming an academy is a huge, huge step which we won’t be taking without consulting everyone.”