Hove head reassures staff and parents about academy option

Posted On 14 Mar 2014 at 1:40 pm

Hove Park head teacher Derek Trimmer has offered reassurance to those worried about the prospect of his school becoming an academy.

If the governors chose to explore the possibility, he said, they would consult parents, staff and the wider community fully before reaching any conclusion.

But the governors would not even be making a decision about whether to look at the academy option and consult on it until their next meeting on Monday 31 March.

Mr Trimmer said that he and the governors were under a duty to make strategic decisions in the best interests of the school and its pupils.

And that exploring whether to become an academy was one of the options that the governors had to consider.

He said that he understood that in the current changing landscape this could give rise to uncertainty, concern and fear for some.

He said: “I want to alleviate people’s fears that an outside sponsor is coming in.

Derek Trimmer

Derek Trimmer

“If we look to become an academy, it will be about us having the power to shape our own future.

“It’s about partnerships and having the capacity to support other schools.

“Naturally, there are big fears around pensions, term dates and pay.

“All of those we would continue to operate as they are, with the local pay structures that have been agreed, and there will be pensions continuity. We will work with unions.

“And we’re not suddenly going to have five terms or have a day that ends at 5 o’clock.”

“This is about raising aspiration and ambitions.

“Look at how far we’ve moved in the past three years. You can’t keep being the most improved school.

“We’ve introduced the new uniform. Behaviour has improved. Performance has improved. We’ve radically altered the quality of teaching.

“We take children who would never have managed sixth form before and we’ve kept hold of them and given them a chance to succeed.

“We’ve done all those big changes. This is about going to the next level.

“It’s more about creating freedom. Academy status brings greater freedoms.”

He said this was one of the reasons that it was so important to give the idea serious consideration.

“We’re doing a lot of work with our partners locally and nationally,” he said, “but it would make it easier to work in partnerships with some of the best schools in the country.

“And it gives us the opportunity to engage more with local businesses.”

He said that the revolutionary work with iPads showed that the school would do its best regardless of its status – as a local authority school or an academy.

“We’re taking a leading international role with the work we’re doing around iPads.

“We’re looking at funding to support training of parents (to use iPads) so they can support their children in their learning.

“But it (academy status) would give us a greater degree of freedom and flexibility about how we spend our money.

“It doesn’t guarantee money but the landscape is changing and you’ve got a better chance as an academy.

“We desperately need some work on our buildings. If we’re a bit more innovative and creative, there’s a better chance we can do that.

“We got about £100,000 into the school to finance four literacy coaches for year 7 students who were level 4 or below in reading.

“We got that through our links with Perry Beeches Academy (in Birmingham).”

Those sorts of links, he said, were easier to forge as an academy.

Mr Trimmer added: “Ultimately it’s about the children.

“I’m passionate about all-through education. We want to work more closely with our feeder schools.”

He and his staff already provide support to West Blatchington Primary School – one of his main feeder schools.

He said: “We’re not looking to be an aggressive sponsor. Can we work in partnership with another school in the way we do with West Blatch? If we’ve got the capacity, of course we’ll say yes.

“It’s about partnerships and having the capacity to support other schools.”

He said that he and his school have enjoyed a really good relationship with the local authority, Brighton and Hove City Council.

But he said: “Due to cuts to its funding, it’s no secret that the local authority doesn’t have the capacity that it used to have to support school development.

“We’ve worked well with the local authority and we will continue to work well with them. For example, we would still commit to common inset days.

“But you’ve got to picture a future when all schools could be academies. I don’t want to be one of the last ones and have to join someone else’s academy. I want to lead the way.

“It’s not threatening nor is it territorial. And I’m not on a personal crusade.

“Ultimately, it’s a decision the governors will make. But we have to look ahead.”

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