Charity reveals reasons for blocking academy bid

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BOURNE United Charities has outlined its reasons for objecting to a school’s bid for academy status.

Bourne Grammar School cannot apply to become an academy without consent from the charity, which owns part of the school site.

The charity members last week decided at a meeting to object to the school’s bid.

The school says not becoming an academy will mean missing out on £450,000 of funding next year, forcing it to consider staff cuts and cutting back on courses.

Yesterday afternoon the charity sent a three-page statement to the school explaining its objection. A copy was also released to the local press.

The charity says it has blocked the bid because it wants to maintain the legal framework for the provision of a selective grammar school education for children in the Bourne area.

It also says it wants to preserve the Bourne Education Foundation, to which it appoints four trustees to be governors at the school.

The charity says if the grammar school status was lost, the education foundation would be a shell charity with no trustees and it would not be able to give money to other schools in town.

The statement: “Our role in the Bourne United Charities is to seek to guarantee the education historically offered by Bourne Grammar School not only in the short-term, but for the longer term.

“We need to ask the question, Do we want a grammar school in the town or not?

“A grammar school is the only way to ensure that there is a broad and rich opportunity for education in the town at secondary level.

“There is no assured way back should academies prove unsustainable either politically or economically.

“The many educational changes over the past 20 years have worked to a lesser or greater degree because the 1944 Education Act provided a framework of recognised parameters within which education operated.

“Academies have changed this by ending financial and administrative accountability to local democratically elected bodies such as the town council and the education authority.”

The statement added: “This change in legal status would make the Bourne Education Foundation a ‘shell’ charity with no trustees.

“It would not be able to disburse monies to the Robert Manning, Westfield, Abbey Road and Willoughby schools in Bourne, manage the Old Grammar School or manage the administration and forward-planning of its finances.”

Bourne Grammar School headteacher Jonathan Maddox said: “I am pleased they have set out in detail their comments.

“The chairman of governors and I now have a substantial document to examine and to comment upon in full detail, giving the matter the careful attention that such a weighty document needs.”

However, Mr Maddox did question part of the charity’s statement which said that “a significant number of excellent grammar schools have decided not to apply for academy status”.

Looking at figures provided by the Grammar School Heads’ Association, Mr Maddox said that out of the 164 remaining grammar schools, 94 have already converted and a further 36 have made applications and are awaiting decisions.

Mr Maddox feels that with 79 per cent of all grammar schools having converted or applied, the number who have “decided not to apply” is perhaps not as ‘significant’ as the charity suggests.

He has been advised by the association that the school would be left in a minority if it doesn’t apply.

Mr Maddox added: “For so many to have converted or applied, given that the Academies Act 2010 reached the Statue Book only in the Autumn of 2010, and the earliest date on which a school could convert was September 1, 2010, it seems clear that a great many grammar schools and their governing bodies see conversion to academy status to be in the long-term interest of their schools and students.”

Last week Mr Maddox, who is hoping to meet with the charity to discuss a way forward, said that without academy status, the school would be in a desperate situation.

He said the only way to avoid that is to offer fewer GCSE subject options and staff cuts.

The school has an annual budget of about £4m but Mr Maddox expects to get slightly less than this for the 2011/12 financial year.