By Carl Jackson 05/07 Updated: 05/07 17:10
CONVERTING to an academy would put the future of the Waseley Hills High School in its own hands, parents were told at the latest consultation on Tuesday evening (July 3).
Waseley headteacher Alan Roll moved to reassure around a 100 parents, teachers and governors in the school hall that becoming an independent state school was in the best interests of the children and their children's children.
He said the school would be more independent, more accountable, could create more local partnerships, could change the curriculum and could achieve better value on services. This would allow them to provide more vocational skills to pupils and afford better provisions he added.
Currently Waseley recieves services and is bound by the regulations of Worcestershire County Council.
As an academy it would be run by a group of trustees and directly responsible to the Department for Education.
Mr Roll said: "The school remains the property of the local authority (LA).
"It's about forming a new relationship, not abandoning them.
"The DfE may become the largest local authority in the country if LAs dissappear."
He added Waseley had to act to balance the books after a drop in population and primary school numbers and it would gain financially by leaving WCC which top slices hundreds of thousands of pounds of Government education funds.
"They would also be able to plan the budget further than 12 months ahead as they do now.
Tim Gulliver, headteacher of King Charles Secondary School, Kidderminster - which converted in April - backed the move.
"I'm philosophically against academies, but it's a journey we must go on.
"Children only get one chance.
"If we mess it up, we can't give it back.
"We have to plan ahead and be pragmatic."
Opposition was voiced by Richard Hatcher, joint secretary of the Birmingham Anti-Academies Alliance.
Mr Hatcher argued that conversion was a one-way-street and two outstanding Ofsted schools in Birmingham had already being downgraded twice since leaving local authority control two years ago. He warned the only option for failing academies was to be taken over by another academy.
"This opens up the door to change school policy.
"Why change? What is wrong with it?
"What can you do as an academy that you can't do now?
"Any school can buy services and make partnerships with who it wants. These are false freedoms."
Mr Hatcher also dismissed the financial benefits of avoiding county council top slicing.
"Is it worth it? Money is there now, but it will dry up. You lose an awful lot of support."
The night ended sourly as a vocal and volatile Q and A descended into verbal mudslinging. Dozens of parents left in disgust, while chair of governors Eric Hogg was still wrapping up the meeting.
Claims have also been made this week that an anti-academy poster has caused confusion amongst parents of children attending Waseley Hills High, implying the school could close.
Headteacher Alan Roll said concerned parents had come to him upset after seeing the words 'Last Chance to Save Waseley' which was actually advertising Tuesday's (July 3) parent consultation on academy status.
He also claimed a petition arranged by campaigners - who distributed the posters - had been misleading and had been signed by parents worried the school was in danger of shutting.
Bob Poston, vice chair of governors at Waseley Hills High, said: "Nowhere does the poster say it's got to do with academy status.
"The school has to be run like a business and this is damaging."
But Waseley parent Cormac Loane who is behind the anti-academy campaign defended the poster.
"Parents and the local community are well aware the context of the poster and that the meeting was to do with academy status.
"If there's any misunderstanding, it's because the school has failed all along to communicate on the issue."
He also argued the petition - signed by more than 200 people - was clearly worded to be in favour of Waseley Hills High holding a full advisory parental ballot on whether it should become an academy.
The final decision is set to be made by governors on Wednesday July 11 at 6pm at the School.
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