Could the borough’s top GCSE school become an academy?

Standish High School
Standish High School
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A TABLE-topping Wigan high school may opt out of council control to become an academy.

And in doing so Standish is considering going into partnership with opposite numbers at Southlands High in Chorley, with the option of more local schools joining them in future.

We are currently looking at the whys and wherefores. Nothing has yet been decided and there is a consultation which will continue until the end of March

Adrian Hardy

Standish, whose higher GCSE grades put it at the summit of the borough’s performance league last summer, will consult parents and staff over the next two months before governors decide whether to press ahead with “multi-academy status” and the hook-up with Southlands.

The incentives on the table under the Conservative government-backed scheme, is more cash and freedoms for participating institutions than they get under local authority jurisdiction.

And it wouldn’t be the first school in the borough to opt out. Fred Longworth in Tyldesley, was the first and since then Abraham Guest at Orrell, Rose Bridge at Ince and Hawkley Hall High School have all parted company with the local education authority.

Chairman of Standish High’s governors, Adrian Hardy, said: “We are currently looking at the whys and wherefores. Nothing has yet been decided and there is a consultation which will continue until the end of March.

“We want to improve what we are doing already and considering the options available.

“Nationally the Government wants academies to be the order of the day, it wants to see school-to-school support, and there are greater opportunities for capital funding and other freedoms under the academy system.

“The Government are in for the next four years at least and there will not be a change of policy in that time.

“Parents should not notice any major differences. The biggest changes would be on the management side although a partnership would allow partner schools to share best practice.

“We would expect to see the same range of options on the curriculum and maintaining, if not further improving, educational standards.”

Mr Hardy, who is the former assistant chief executives of Wigan’s Labour council, was asked if he would feel any regret at opting out of local authority control.

He said the school would still work with Wigan Council and also pointed out that the chairman of governors for the first borough school to go its own way - Fred Longworth High - was Brian Wilson, the former Labour councillor and chairman of the authority’s education committee.

Mr Hardy said Standish had been considering academy status before it was approached by Southlands but stressed it was not a done deal.

He added; “I have been a governor of Standish High School for more than 20 years and chairman for 10. I have to be convinced that any new arrangements would be in the best interests of the school if I am to support them.”

Southlands, which is rated good by watchdog Oftsed, is holding its own consultation with “stakeholders” including parents, staff and pupils, at the same time as the Standish

one.

Chairman of the governors there, Tom Frost, suggested the school was being coerced into the move.

He said: “We have been led into these consultations by the increasing pressure from government to see all schools become academies. We can either choose when and how to move to become an academy or wait until such time as the government tells us to do so.

“We prefer to be in charge of our own destiny.”

An opt-out would see Southlands break away from Lancashire County Council control.

Headteacher Mark Fowle said the two schools were only four miles apart and shared accountability would improve provision and standards for pupils. Standish is ranked good with outstanding qualities by Ofsted.

Further details of the link-up are expected to be released at a Southlands meeting for parents on February 9. A Standish meeting is planned for the following day.

However, parents are already objecting to the proposal on both sides of the Lancashire/Greater Manchester border.

One Southlands parent Claire Ward said: “Parents received a text on Friday afternoon to look at the school’s website where there was a letterr which more or less says they are going to become an academy.

“I have written to the school saying ‘How can you possibly state on your website’s welcome page the many positives of Southlands High School and then compile a letter with a jump-before-pushed attitude is also abhorrent.’

“This is on top of the misguided and misinformed propaganda which form the bulk of this letter implying that the governing body has already made up its mind to convert.”