June 24, 2008
Secondary Schools Set to Be Turned in to New City Academies
Council leaders are pressing ahead with plans to turn two Birmingham secondary schools into city academies, despite protests from teaching unions.
Heartlands High in Nechells and Shenley Court in Weoley Castle will close on August 31 and re-open the next day as academies bankrolled by the education charity Edutrust.
They are among eight the city council is proposing to take out of local authority control to improve performance.
Adults and Communities Strategic Director Tony Howell described the move as a "milestone" which would transform education in Birmingham. He rejected union claims the academies would cream off the brightest pupils, leaving the city's remaining state-run schools to suffer.
The Alliance Against Birmingham Academies, a protest group comprising of the main teaching and local government unions, insists academies will not raise standards in tough urban areas.
Spokesman Richard Hatcher said: "AABA has long warned Academies pose a threat to the school system in Birmingham, and the Government's recent announcement up to 27 secondary schools in the city may be forced to become academies proves us right - even though nearly one in three academies are on education minister Ed Balls's list of 'failing schools'.
"The council has opened the door to the privatisation of secondary schools, based on spurious claims about what private sponsorship can achieve - only a campaign by everyone with an interest in keeping our schools as a democratically accountable public service can reverse it.
"We challenge the advocates of academies to an open debate about the future of secondary education in the city."
Introduced by previous Prime Minister Tony Blair, academies represent the Government's solution for improving struggling schools.
It believes outside sponsors can inject new purpose and direction and help by providing expertise to lift standards.
Organisations like Edutrust have experience of working with schools.
The NUT, however, claims the move will threaten teachers' pay and conditions, pit schools against each other and lay them open to being taken over by organisations with no interest in education.
The British Edutrust Foundation, whose chairman is the multi- millionaire Lord Bhatia, says in its website mission statement it is committed to improving pupils' aspirations, learning, achievement and personal development, irrespective of ability, faith or race.
Edutrust add: "Our academies will be inclusive and reflect the multi-racial, multifaith and multi-cultural nature of 21st century Britain.
"The ethos and values of Edutrust will support and develop a culture where students' individual faith and cultural requirements are recognised, respected and celebrated, thereby fostering the tolerance and respect for others which will lead to greater community cohesion.
Sellafield nuclear power plant will run a state school specialising in science and business enterprise.
Sellafield Ltd, which runs the plant near Whitehaven, Cumbria, is one of three organisations that will manage the new West Lakes Academy.
The University of Central Lancashire and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority are the other organisations involved in the academy, formed by the merging of two secondary schools.
The academy will open in September in Egremont, near Sellafield. The institution will operate in the premises of one of the closing schools, whilst modern facilities are built.
A spokesperson for the nuclear plant said: "Sellafield Ltd is key to Britain's energy future and our ongoing support for the West Lakes Academy is part of a wider strategy to reinforce the nuclear skills base in the UK and secure the inclusion of West Cumbria in the UK's energy policy.
"Our business is a valuable strategic asset to the UK in its operational expertise and the capacity it has to develop that knowledge within a new generation of nuclear experts who will maintain Sellafield's position.
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