Education chief grills Eskdale on academy idea

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The chief of education in North Yorkshire has launched a scathing attack on Eskdale School’s plans to become an academy and increase the leaving age.

A letter leaked to the Gazette, reveals North Yorkshire County Council has “serious concerns” about the proposals - which he says could be breaking the law.

Peter Dwyer, corporate director for Children and Young People’s Services wrote a five page letter to headteacher Sue Whelan earlier this month.

Previously, the county council has aired no view about whether schools under its control should become academies if decisions are based on clear and detailed information regarding financial, staffing and curricular implications.

But, Mr Dwyer said in Eskdale’s case he was compelled to write saying “the consultation document which we have had sight of does not address matters of detail regarding these critical matters.”

He accuses Eskdale governors of ‘misleading’ parents about gaining academy status and changing the leaving age from 14 to 16 at the same time.

He writes: “It is simply incorrect to state that it is a requirement of seeking a change of age range that the school becomes an academy. On the contrary the expectation for schools converting to Academy status is that they convert with their basic characteristics unchanged.

“It is very misleading to pose the consultation question to parents asking them to say they ‘appreciate that this change will necessitate the school converting to an academy’ as this is factually inaccurate. It is our view that this leaves the process open to legal

Within the letter he also questions the ability of the teachers to adapt to a GCSE curriculum, how Eskdale would access funding away from the local education authority and the “potentially detrimental effect” on Whitby Community College.

There is the fear that rather than being at Whitby Community College from the age of 14 and more likely to stay on post 16, students will go elsewhere.

Mr Dwyer adds: “We are concerned about the potential impact caused by such a dramatic reduction in pupil numbers (and therefore budgets) at Whitby Community College.”

Mike Ward, the chairman of the Eskdale governors, responded to Mr Dwyer saying it creates “healthy competition” and that it could have “addressed the needs of all pupils in the area”.

See next week’s Gazette for more reaction from MrWard and an interview with Whitby Community College’s chair of governors.