HEADTEACHERS and council leaders came together at the first meeting of a new organisation aiming to keep Sheffield’s ‘family of schools’ working together.
Schools are increasingly being encouraged by ministers to break away from local authority control and become academies and trusts, receiving funding instead from central government.
Tapton and Yewlands secondaries will become academies from next term, while other schools are considering whether to go down the same path.
Critics of the changes fear that the system will result in schools becoming increasingly in competition with each other, ending decades of co-operation and leaving children and families worse off.
Sheffield’s new City Wide Learning Body is one of the first attempts in the country to maintain unity among its education services, ensuring they still work together in the wider interests of pupils.
Representative headteachers and governors will be members of the body along with councillors and senior education officers.
A majority of city schools have signed up to the partnership, including trusts and academies.
They are aiming to make sure education and vital support services are delivered effectively.
A priority will be to drive up attainment levels and to encourage schools to work together, sharing their partnership skills and knowledge.
Council leader Julie Dore said: “The future of our children is everyone’s responsibility.
“I am proud that as a city we are taking this ambitious approach and sharing this common theme – to make education better for all children in the city.
“We all have a role to play in how education is delivered here in Sheffield, whether this is as parents, teachers, governors or city council leaders.
“With budgets being stretched to the limit this is exactly the time to get it right and work together.
“Ideas need to be shared and we need to learn together about what does work and ultimately what doesn’t,” she said.
Executive director for children’s services Dr Sonia Sharp said: “Frankly my main interest is not what structure a school is – be it an academy, trust or maintained school – rather how we raise standards.
“Our priority is that schools still feel like they are part of the city, can draw on the support of their peers, and have a greater say in key decisions on how education is being run in Sheffield.”
The new City Wide Learning Body’s first task will be to create a new plan for education that covers the whole city.