Academy plans set for approval

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GOVERNORS are to vote on whether to turn a top Sheffield secondary into an academy tonight – with campaigners claiming parents are split down the middle on the issue.

Proposals to take King Ecgbert School in Dore out of local authority control are expected to be given the green light.

Parents’ protest group KES PLEAS is calling for the decision to be at least deferred until all relevant financial details have been received.

The group says a ballot to elect a new parent governor held last week highlighted divisions over the plans.

An incumbent parent governor supporting academy status was re-elected 83 votes to 79 – narrowly defeating a challenger who opposed the move by a narrow margin.

Protesters sought to use the election as a litmus test on parents’ views as calls for a full ballot on academy status had been rejected by governors.

Defeated candidate Cathy Lee said the strength of feeling against the plans had brought a result which was far closer than anyone had expected.

“Parents are clearly split down the middle on the issue and the governors need to understand that they do not have a mandate to take the irreversible decision to convert,” she added.

Headteacher Lesley Bowes believes it is essential for the school to seek the financial benefits of academy status if it is to maintain standards, with its sixth form funding set to be cut.

She insists the protesters only represent a minority view among parents.

But the protest group points to cross-party support from city councillors who backed calls for a ballot to be held.

Chair Andrew James said the school was estimating initial extra income of £250,000 a year, though this would reduce as academies became more widespread.

“The potential savings even if they materialise pale into insignificance in comparison to the £625,000 shortfall due in 2013-14 and beyond,” he said.

“We believe the school is in danger of taking a short term bribe to convert to an academy in exchange for longer term financial instability.”

Mr James said in future academies would be run as private companies, competing against each other for scarce resources.

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