Lincolnshire County Council tells schools to become academies and make their own rules

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SCHOOLS are being encouraged to take control of their futures by making the switch to academy status.

SCHOOLS are being encouraged to take control of their futures by making the switch to academy status.

Lincolnshire County Council decided on Tuesday to encourage all primary and secondary schools to apply for academy status and govern themselves, instead of the council being in charge.

The council says small schools would be more secure if they became academies sponsored by the Centre for British Teachers Academies Trust.

The trust has promised to support small schools, whereas the council fears it may struggle to do so if the Government cuts local education authority funding as expected.

The council previously held a neutral position on academies but it now says it wants to show leadership to allow schools to make a decision.

Executive councillor for children’s services Patricia Bradwell (Con) said: “The council has children’s interests at the heart of this. Any decision about becoming an academy rests with the governing bodies but we want to provide some clear guidance to schools who may be unsure of what to do.”

More than 400 schools in England have become academies since September last year with the majority being secondary schools.

Stamford Queen Eleanor School, Malcolm Sargent Primary School and The Deepings School have all applied for academy status. Casterton Business and Enterprise College has already become an academy, leaving Rutland County Council’s control.

Stamford Queen Eleanor headteacher Wendy Hamilton thinks it is important for her school to be at the forefront of changes in education.

She said: “We felt we would reap the most benefits by being early. We made our decision independently of anything the council has said but it was not made because we believed the council was not offering us good support.

“Becoming an academy will give us more financial freedom to look at what we need and meet the needs of our students. We want to maximise the budget that comes directly to us.

“It also gives us the freedom to be in complete control of the future direction of the school so that if we wish to make changes we can.”

Malcolm Sargent headteacher Tristan Revell is expecting to hear if his school’s bid has been successful in the next few days.

He said: “We have been through the consultation and are now waiting to hear back from the Department for Education about our application.

“We have looked very closely at it and can see a lot of benefits from going down that route.

“We would have more control over the money that is allocated to spend on our pupils.”

The money the council usually gets for school support services, such as welfare officers, will now go to the academies to spend how they want. If the county’s schools do not convert to academies the council would need to try to save £9m to pay for the support services, which could lead to job losses.

Coun Bradwell said: “With more and more of our larger secondary schools changing to academies we want to support and protect our more vulnerable smaller schools so they can continue providing a valuable and important role in their communities.

“We can’t ignore the fact that more schools are increasingly changing to academy status and as this continues it will leave us with a smaller number of schools who need support.

“This proposal is ensuring that support is in place.

“The Centre for British Teachers has a proven track record in providing effective school improvement services and are committed to supporting all schools however they are performing.

“While we would recommend them on this basis, it is up to individual schools whether they go for trust status with them or any other provider.”