Opt out schools to be given academy shortlist

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SHEFFIELD schools wanting to opt out of local authority control are to be given the chance to choose partners from a council-approved shortlist - with three more schools set to convert to academy status.

Governors at Catholic high schools Notre Dame and All Saints have both voted to become academies, while parents at Silverdale are to be consulted on the issue.

King Ecgbert, Meadowhead, Fir Vale and Bradfield have already gone down the same route this year, while Chaucer is seeking to become an academy from September, sponsored by Tapton which will finally convert on April 1.

But education chiefs believe a new wave of around ten primary schools will be making their move soon, with up to 15 more following in 2013-14.

Primaries failing to reach minimum pass rates in English and maths face having academy status forced up on them by ministers, with the possibility of sponsors being brought in from outside the city.

Schools in such a situation could also have their heads and other senior staff removed.

The new council shortlist, to be published after Easter, will free smaller schools from the task of searching for a suitable sponsor.

It is likely to include colleges, national organisations and other successful schools.

Cabinet member for children, young people and families, Coun Jackie Drayton, said the council did not want to see large academy chains with no feeling for the city’s community ethos taking over schools.

“We have been carrying out a selection process and we have been making sure candidates meet a series of important criteria, such as a pledge they will keep to current admissions processes and that they are high performing,” she said.

“We still want schools to consult fully with parents, teachers and unions - and we would say to them that there is no rush to make a decision.”

Governors will still have the power to look beyond the shortlist if they choose to do that.

Executive director of education Dr Sonia Sharp said the authority was also hoping to allow heads to keep their focus on their ‘day jobs’.

“It can be a time-consuming business assessing potential sponsors, a process that could also cause a good deal of duplication between schools.

“We have being doing that job for schools,” she said.