Twenty parents and community members attended a meeting at Cockburn School to discuss the school governors’ intentions to convert the school to Academy status last night (19 October 2015).
The meeting heard a presentation from Headteacher David Gurney explaining the school’s reasons for considering conversion. He stressed that the change in status would have little effect on day-to-day school life with no change to the school’s name, uniform, admissions policy, curriculum and staff employment conditions.
He said the reasons for the change are two fold. Firstly the Government has said that it wants every school to become an Academy by 2020. Schools that do not opt to convert could be forced to with no choice of sponsor or academy chain. Mr Gurney told the meeting:
“We want to remain masters of our own destiny.”
The second reason is the financial position. As a ‘maintained’ school 10% of Cockburn’s budget is kept by Leeds City Council and pooled to provide services across all the local authority schools. Mr Gurney said that the services offered by the Council were dwindling year on year and services such as finance and human resources now had to be paid for. As an academy, he explained, Cockburn would receive its whole budget and could buy in services from any provider. This would release more funding for the school.
Cockburn plans to create a Multi Academy Trust and hopes that the primary schools which are currently partners in the Learning Trust (South Leeds) will also convert and join the Academy Trust. It is not clear that any of the primary schools plan to convert at this stage. It was clarified that regardless of the schools’ status, Cockburn would continue to work closely with the partner schools.
Dave Westwell, Chair of Governors, said that Cockburn would not become a selective school saying it went totally against the school’s ethos. Cockburn currently selects 10% of its pupils based on its performing arts specialism, but these pupils have a wide range of academic ability. This policy would continue if the school converts.
In closing the meeting Mr Westwell said:
“It appears we are going ahead (with conversion to an Academy), but I want to make it clear that Cockburn won’t change. We are a successful, over subscribed, locally focussed school and we will continue to be.”
More information about Cockburn’s plans are available on the school’s website: www.cockburnschool.org/academy-conversion. The consultation period ends on Friday 23 October 2015.