Consultation on Academies in the Diocese of Middlesbrough
Blogged by James Preece on 4th November 2011
As I have already blogged, Bishop Drainey is holding a consultation on whether schools in the Diocese of Middlesbrough ought to become academies.
The Bishop’s Council, The Trustee Board of the Diocese, and the Director of Schools, Mr John Tat, met on Thursday 29th September 2011 to listen to a number of presentations on the conversion of Catholic Schools into academies.
The primary objective of the Bishop and his Trustees is to ensure that the Catholic identity of all Diocesan schools is not only maintained but enhanced and any proposed change by a Diocesan school to an academy must ensure this is achieved. In law, it is the Trustees’ responsibility to give formal, written consent to the establishment of any academy in the Diocese. There are many other implications, primarily legal and financial, for all our schools and in particular for our Governors, Headteachers and teaching staff. A discussion took place on the various models for academies proposed by the Government and the initial view is that the ‘Family of Schools’ model seems to best meet Diocesan needs. However, the Diocese is at the start of a wide ranging consultation programme so that any decisions are made with full knowledge of all implications for schools and the Diocese.
John Tat, as Director of Schools, has been asked to convene area meetings of parish priests, governors, headteachers and teachers across the Diocese to explain in more detail the implications for a school on becoming an academy and in particular the ‘Family of Schools’ model. Following this, a full day Diocesan meeting has been arranged for 22nd March 2012 at York Racecourse where the views of governors, headteachers and priests will be obtained.
The dates and venues for the meetings, which will be held between 6.00 pm and 8.00 pm, are as follows:
Tuesday 1st November Sacred Heart College, Redcar
Wednesday 9th November St Mary’s College, Hull
Tuesday 15th November St Peter’s College, South Bank, Middlesbrough
Wednesday 16th November Trinity Catholic College, Middlesbrough
Tuesday 22nd November All Saints School, York
Wednesday 30th November St Francis Xavier School, Richmond
Tuesday 6th December St Patrick’s Catholic College, Thornaby
Tuesday 13th December St Augustine’s Catholic High School, Scarborough
Middlesbrough Catholic Voice - Nov 2011 - Page 6
Anybody who has been through more than one of these consultation type things knows that they are only ever carried out once a decision been all but made. It should be obvious why - a vast amount of effort is required to hold a "consultation" in the first place so they only ever get held once there is a certain amount of political will behind whatever is being consulted on.
In this instance, there is obviously quite a bit of political will to have some/all the schools in the diocese become academies - if there wasn't, they wouldn't bother having a consultation. Nobody is holding consultations on whether to paint all the churches orange with green spots! Unless there is a major backlash I expect it will not be long before we see Catholic schools in the Diocese becoming academies.
A friend of mine who knows a thing or two about Catholic schools (kept anonymous to protect their job!) reckons that might not be a bad thing:
A Catholic school that becomes an academy will benefit enormously: it will have more money; it will be less under the thumb of the local authority; it will not have to follow the National Curriculum with all its works and all its pomps. You would expect the CES and the Bishops to be all in favour of academy status. Au contraire, they hate the idea and at first tried to prevent Catholic schools from becoming academies. Why? Because the Bishops and their cronies see being part of the local authority as the most important thing: bureaucracies love other bureaucracies. Always remember, James, that in all Catholic teaching on education it is the parents who are described as the most important people: bishops hardly have a mention and the bureaucracies of bishops do not get a mention at all.
I suppose we parents will just have to wait and see what happens...