Top school set to take next step amid calls for ballot, meeting hears

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A LEADING Sheffield secondary could take a key step closer to becoming the city’s latest academy early next week - if governors sign a key financial deal with the Government.

Governors at Crosspool’s Tapton School are waiting for final details of the funding agreement which will seal the secondary’s split from the local authority.

A private meeting attended by around 75 parents heard the latest developments, with headteacher David Bowes confirming the school still did not have all the information it needed.

“If the whole of the package stacks up, then governors will sign the funding agreement on Monday having made a balanced decision,” he said.

“Our governors are motivated by a desire to maintain high standards of education in the face of serious budget cuts.

“It is about preserving everything we hold dear and that includes safeguarding jobs –we estimate 10 to 15 members of staff would have to go if we do not resolve this situation.”

Local councillor Andrew Sangar said: “The Lib Dems introduced a policy that any school wishing to become an academy should ballot parents first, a procedure which Parkwood School followed when it changed its status.

“It is the view of elected members in all the parties that ballots should be held in these circumstances.

“When such a major change to a school’s status is contemplated, it is important parents are on board. No school as yet has ever gone back to a local authority after such a move and it is not clear if there is a procedure to do that.

“Tapton has sent out two letters to parents since February but a vote taken among teaching staff showed they were highly sceptical of what was happening. In addition Tapton does not seem to have engaged with parents from its feeder schools.”

Parent Mary Seneviratne claimed it was clear the governing body was not there to debate the issue.

“They had already made up their minds. Once they had the information about funding they would sign the funding contract. I think parents were surprised that this would happen so soon.

“I believe such an important and irrevocable decision should only be made after a full and open debate and a ballot of parents at Tapton and the feeder schools. We all need to know the financial and other implications.”

Mr Bowes said there was no need for schools to hold ballots.

“Earlier this year we sent out 4,000 letters to parents and we received 21 responses. The majority of parents at the meeting came to listen to the proposals and ask questions. We have been completely open throughout this process, one we have conducted with complete integrity.”