Council opposed to school academy bid

TOWN councillors are opposing a bid by Heanor Gate Science College to convert to an academy.

All 19 councillors on Heanor and Loscoe Town Council present at Thursday’s meeting voted in favour of opposing the move, in a motion put forward by deputy mayor Bob Janes.

Speaking to a packed public gallery at the meeting the school’s former deputy head, Cllr Janes said the college had not fully consulted with the wider community about the academy plans and called on the governing body to reconsider its bid.

He said: “What worries me is that the main argument I have heard in favour of converting to an academy is finance.

“The temptation to take a short term gain I understand, but the implication for the long term is significant.”

Heanor Gate has already submitted its academy bid and governors are now due to make the final decision on whether to press ahead with the move on September 13.

Cllr Janes resigned his post as a school governor at Heanor Gate three days prior to the town meeting so he could speak openly in public about the plan. He told the meeting that although the school would receive initial financial perks for converting and have greater control over its own budget, it would later have to pay for services it currently receives from Derbyshire County Council as a state school. He claimed this made the argument for academy status ‘misleading’.

The school has assured parents and teachers that its admissions policy and terms and conditions for staff would not change if it converts.

But the deputy mayor said more assurance was needed that these policies would remain in effect.

A letter circulated to councillors prior to the meeting by school head Rob Howard and chairman of governors Andrew Collington asked the council to postpone discussing the matter.

It stated: “In the absence of adjournment to allow time for proper consultation the town council would be voting on matters about which it has insufficient information and about which it is in no position to decide anything on behalf of the community which it serves.”

However, Cllr Paul Jones said no attempt had been made by the school’s governing body to talk about the plans with the council, calling the letter a ‘scare tactic’.

He added: “They have already applied to become an academy, that’s not a consultation. They have not come to us and said we are thinking about converting what is your view. I find this letter a bit rich.”

Some teachers at the school went on strike for two days over the bid.