Schools could still be turned into academies

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Education bosses at the county council say they are still considering whether Eskdale School and Caedmon College should become academies, despite a Government U-turn on forcing all schools to make the leap by 2020.

Proposals to merge the two schools from September were put on the backburner last month when a Government 
report set out policy which was a welcome reprieve for campaigners fighting to stop the merger and retain two schools in the town providing secondary education.

The Department for Education scrapped the policy of turning schools into academies following last week’s elections.

The Government, however, has said there is still a desire to see a further growth in the number of academies but the issue now was how this could be achieved and whether it is delivered through compulsion rather than being left to the discretion of individual schools.

And this is what the county council says it is now considering.

It had paused the consultation on the merger to look at the academy scenario and allow for discussions between schools, the DfE/Regional School Commissioner, the local authority and potential academy sponsors to take place.

This was to see whether the real concerns of the local authority over becoming an academy and others could be addressed in other ways.

The authority says those discussions are on-going and are unaffected by last week’s announcement.

Councillor Arthur Barker, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Schools, said: “I would want to see the detail of what is proposed before commenting further, but I welcome the fact that the Secretary of State has listened to our concerns and seems prepared to recognise that good or outstanding schools, at least in North Yorkshire, should be able to make decisions for themselves whether they become academies or remain with the local authority.”

A county council spokesperson went on to say that what matters to the county council is not the name above the door, whether it is a school or an academy, but the quality of education provided.

A total of 86 per cent of schools under North Yorkshire County Council are now good or outstanding, a figure which is above the national average.

Since news broke of plans to merge Eskdale and Caedmon College to form one single super school, there has been a huge campaign to halt it.

Hundreds joined a mass march through town, attended two public meetings and countless council meetings and thousands signed petitions backed by famous former pupils.