School set to become an academy

tis  Harrogate High School.  110608M2e.
tis Harrogate High School. 110608M2e.

A SECOND Harrogate school is set to become an academy by September 1.

Harrogate High School has opened a consultation over plans to seek academy status, giving it greater independence from North Yorkshire County Council.

It will be part of the Outwood Grange Academy Trust, based in Wakefield, formalising a partnership it has been involved with for some time.

School principal Andrew Bayston said: “The prime reason why we want academy status is because we want a bit more autonomy and independence.

“We will continue to partner with all the people we partner with now; we have a really healthy partnership with local primary school partners.

“It will not prevent us from being a partner with the local authority. We will just work together on the areas where we can secure an improvement for our young people.”

Chairman of governors Ian Curtis added: “The governors are committed to continuing the progress achieved over recent years. We are also committed to the development and growth of the school and feel academy status will provide the platform to achieve this.”

Earlier this month, Harrogate Grammar School announced it would become the first academy school in North Yorkshire from March 1. But Mr Bayston said Harrogate High’s plans were for a very different form of academy encompassing several other schools.

Outwood Grange is a lead sponsor for other academies and is looking at linking with more schools across Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire. Harrogate High School would adopt the same uniform as the other schools and undergo a name change to reflect its new status and link to the Outwood “family” of schools.

“Most families have an identical name or a similar name,” said Mr Bayston. “The Outwood Grange Trust have adopted a similar format for names. We will certainly still have Harrogate in our name. We will retain our own identity as a school serving this locality.”

Governors voted to become part of the academy at the end of November and meetings have already taken place with pupils about the proposals. Teaching unions ATL, NASUWT and NUT, who met with staff last week, have expressed concerns about the plans.

Speaking on behalf of the unions, Katherine Fry, lead organiser for ATL, said: “The academy legislation means that once a school converts into an academy it cannot revert back to being a community school. Everyone affected by these proposals for Harrogate High School should insist on the school holding a meaningful discussion about its future and we urge parents and the local community to take an active part in the decision about the school’s future.”

The relationship with Outwood Grange began in 2008 when Harrogate High was placed on the National Challenge list. Outwood’s headteacher, Paul Tarn, was brought in to help make improvements and the result was a significant rise in the number of pupils achieving at least five A* to C grades at GCSE.

Outwood is the first academy in the country to achieve an outstanding Ofsted report after changing its status, having been judged outstanding previously.

Mr Bayston said: “In today’s society. it’s important we have our local identity but our young people and our parents need to know we’re doing all we can for them. We want the best for everybody.”

l Is this the right choice for Harrogate High? Send your views to the address on Page 6.