Academy aims for all town’s state schools

tis. Rossett School. 091006GS6.
tis. Rossett School. 091006GS6.

ALL FIVE state secondary schools in Harrogate could be academies if current proposals go ahead.

Rossett School is currently consulting with parents over the possibility, while St John Fisher Catholic High School is investigating whether it could make the transition.

If the proposals are accepted, Rossett could become an academy from July 1 - but headteacher Pat Hunter said students and parents should not notice any difference.

“We intend to keep the same name and uniform - although we do review that every year so it could change anyway,” she said. “Admissions will remain the same and our curriculum will remain largely the same, apart from some things we were already going to change.”

Rossett is the fourth school in Harrogate to begin the process of becoming an academy, after Harrogate Grammar converted to academy status in March. St Aidan’s is currently consulting with parents about its own proposals, while Harrogate High School is proposing becoming part of the Outwood Grange Academy, based in Wakefield.

Mrs Hunter said: “What I feel is that lots of things are changing in the world of education.

“We wanted to be sure we were in the best position to manage the changes. I do feel that it’s inevitable that over the next three to five years the majority of schools will be academies. We want to do that in the most positive way possible.”

Mrs Hunter said the school’s senior management believed academy status would help build on last year’s Ofsted report, which saw the school judged to be outstanding.

Chairman of governors Phil Kilford added: “I’m very enthusiastic about the opportunities that academy status will bring. We are already very happy with the current curriculum on offer so would like to reassure students and their parents that there will be no major changes there.”

For St John Fisher, the process is more complicated because of its relationship with the Catholic diocese of Leeds, which owns the land the school is built on. Under Government rules, an academy trust would have to own the land itself and, if the academy failed, the land would transfer to the ownership of the Secretrary of State. The diocese also helps appoint people to key positions in the school and any transfer to academy status is likely to include a condition for this to continue.

Headteacher Paul Jackson said: “We can’t and wouldn’t want to apply for academy status without the full support of the Bishop of Leeds, our trustee. If that is done, our governors would go through the same consultation as other schools are doing.”

The Catholic Education Service is looking at the issue of academy schools in general and said it did not support a system which saw some schools flourish and others fail.

The Rt Rev Malcolm McMahon said: “We are under no illusion about both the direction and pace of Government policy and we are taking a hard-headed look at the world as we find it. Our conclusion is that we should make conversion to academies a ready possibility for Catholic schools, subject to the wishes of their bishop, trustees and governing body.”