Academy timetable stuns parents
FAIRFIELD School's governors are hoping it will become an academy on January 1 next year.
But parents who attended a public meeting about the school's future last night were concerned that a decision would be made by a governing body which currently has five parent governor vacancies.
Parents of Year 7 pupils who only started at the school in September said they were stunned by the timetable for the school to become an academy because they had not been made aware of it until a week ago. The meeting heard that the school's governors had been discussing the possibility of becoming a trust school or academy for four years.
Parents were told that information had been posted on the school website several months ago.
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Head teacher Catriona Mangham also informed the meeting that attempts had been made to recruit new parent governors before the new academic year started.
She said she felt that the school would be better supported as an academy with Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) than it currently is by the local authority, as one of only two secondaries in the city that have not yet become academies.
The head teacher and regional director of AET, Chris Montacute, said that the academy organisation would provide back-up for teaching staff as well as practical support such as human resources cover.
Ms Mangham said the charitable trust, which already sponsors 54 primary and secondary academies across England, was better suited to the school's ethos than other organisations might be.
Consultation on the proposals has now opened with a deadline of October 26. The board of governors will then consider the views of parents before making a decision about whether they will proceed with plans to become an academy at the beginning of 2013, chairman of the governors David Brown said.
Emma Hallett, of Horfield, has an 11-year-old son who has recently started at the school.
She said: "When I came to a presentation here last year as a future parent, I did not hear anything about this. It has come like this at the beginning of the secondary career and there are a lot of parents among Year 7 who are exceedingly concerned."
Dr Kieran Kelly, who lives locally and has a daughter who has recently started at the school, said he was concerned that becoming an academy would lead to an end of "democratic control".
"I am completely opposed to academy schools and I think we should stay away from them," he said. "If people feel the same I would be willing to work with them to try and do something about it."
Dr Kelly, who said he has previously been a school governor, felt it would be "unacceptable" to go ahead with a decision on the academy with vacancies.
"I think it is very severe to go forward with five empty places and for the governors to make that decision," he said. "Even if you want to go ahead with that decision, and people might want to go ahead with that decision, to go ahead without that level of authority, I think, is crazy."
Mr Montacute said the ethos of AET was to help ensure children were taught in a good school.