Union highlights preferred option for academy schools

Jonathan Dunning, Norfolk county secretary for UNISON.

Jonathan Dunning, Norfolk county secretary for UNISON. - Credit: Supplied

Education providers trying to establish their own 'family of academies' have been welcomed as the preferred sponsors for Norfolk schools.

Union campaigners stressed that they remain opposed to academies because they believe they lack accountability and break a school's link with its community.

However, Jonathan Dunning, Norfolk county branch secretary for Unison – which represents non-teaching staff such as cleaners, caretakers and teaching assistants in schools – said: 'Clearly, we recognise the way things are going and there is no great sign they are going to change. We have to work within the reality that academies are amongst us.'

In that situation, he said, the 'preferred option' is for current education providers – such as City College Norwich, which is the main sponsor for the Tranforming Education in Norfolk (Ten) Group of academies – to come forward.

He said that was better than a commercial sponsor, which unions fear will be focused more on profit than pupils' achievement.

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Unison schools officer Nigel Beiley added: 'We've never been a great believer in academies but if there is a home-grown organisation in the education area, let's work with them.'

Elsewhere in Norfolk the College of West Anglia (CWA) Academy Trust – which already sponsors the King's Lynn and Downham Market academies – takes over its first primary school this month.

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It is looking to sponsor another primary and secondary school in what CWA principal David Pomfret has called a bid to establish a 'family of academies'.

He said: 'Our approach is to develop a mutually-supportive family of academies with strong leadership practices to bring out the best in each other and, most importantly, in all of our students.'

The Springwood High School Academy Trust, also in King's Lynn, has said it is taking a similar approach after taking over St Clement's High School in Terrington St Clement.

Mr Beiley said that group approach would ensure schools 'don't feel they're isolated'.

Nick O'Brien, president of the Norwich and District National Union of Teachers (NUT), said: 'Schools working in partnership is the best thing' – but that it was a 'shame schools are now working in a smaller partnership'.

He said he believed in the community comprehensives and that schools had severed their links with Norfolk County Council. 'Who comes in if everything goes bust?' he asked.

What do you think about academies? Write, giving your full contact details, to: The Letters Editor, EDP, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email EDPLetters@archant.co.uk

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