College principal calls on schools to opt out

EVERY Barnsley school is being urged to opt out of council control to become academies run in partnership with the town’s college.

The appeal comes from Barnsley College principal Colin Booth, who wants both secondaries and primaries – including schools in Goldthorpe, Thruscoe, Darfield and Wombwell – to join a new multi-academy trust.

Mr Booth has written to all the town’s headteachers urging them to break away, saying it is clear the Government wants all schools to become academies over the next four years.

So far Barnsley schools have shown little appetite to break away from their local authority. In 2006 Elmhirst School became the Barnsley Academy but that was under the old Labour programme designed to help struggling schools.

Mr Booth says the new trust will aim to ensure every school which becomes an academy will be rated as good or outstanding by Ofsted within two years.

Academies are run free from council control and are funded directly by the Government with greater freedoms to set their own curriculum, timetable and admissions arrangements.

Barnsley Council has already acknowledged the trend towards independence by setting up a partnership body for schools to prevent its education system becoming fragmented - similar to the one set up in Sheffield.

Mr Booth says to heads in his letter: “Our goal should be to ensure that we seize this opportunity to do what is right for Barnsley and that we enable our local communities to exercise their right to influence and guide their children’s education.”

He added schools should embrace the academy plans - as opposing the movement would be a ‘waste of effort’.

“Barnsley Council now needs to take a step back. They cannot keep a role running schools – the Government wants all schools to become academies,” he added.

Coun Linda Burgess, cabinet spokesperson for children, said: “Barnsley Council recognises the new relationships and new models of schooling that the Government is seeking to develop.

“Local authorities have not ‘run’ schools for more than 20 years, but have a continuing role in ensuring the needs of communities and families are met appropriately.

“As schools make their own decisions about appropriate governance arrangements for them in the future, we are working with them to establish a Barnsley Challenge Partnership which will ensure that all children and young people and their families have the best possible opportunities to raise aspirations and attainment levels.”