We're being bullied over academies

Moor Smith Copse, Illingworth, Halifax A VISION has been set out for the proposed academy in north Halifax, which will necessitate the closure of Holy Trinity Senior School.

Most parents either don't understand what an academy is or don't want one. There is an increasing sense of despair that the Church of England's Diocese of Wakefield, the lead sponsor, has both the legal right and the will to impose itself on non-consenting families.

Schools Under Secretary Lord Adonis will only allow early access to funding if we build an academy in Calderdale. We are being bullied and bribed into accepting an academy rather than being persuaded of the benefits of academies over community or foundation schools.

The laws relating to governance, employment rights and curriculum significantly reduce the rights of parents and teachers while massively increasing the freedoms of the lead sponsor.

The Bishop of Wakefield, Stephen Platten, will legally be master over the fate of our chil-dren's education, with all the normal checks and balances removed.

The bishop, with Calderdale Council and other co-sponsors, has come up with a vision that is short-sighted, narrow and blurred. The short-term financial gains are not worth the indefinite loss of rights. Money and power appear to have been prioritised over principles.

The Church of England plans to build 100 academies by 2010 while acknowledging the jury is still out on whether they are successful. Rather than prop- erly researching the academies it controls, the Church prefers to have faith and multiply.

Successes have been exaggerated and the cost to the most disadvantaged – the curriculum and the taxpayer – are underestimated.

During the consultation over closing The Ridings, the council did not see fit to undertake a simple survey of parental wishes. Neither will the parents and pupils at Holy Trinity Senior School, nor those of primary schools in north Halifax be balloted on whether they want an academy.

The public meeting at Holy Trinity was packed and overwhelmingly anti-academy and yet the Labour councillors, who were there "to listen", have now decided they will all endorse an expression of interest in an academy.

This decision has even been taken before the extraordinary council meeting on February 27 to discuss the matter.

Councillor Barry Collins has lamented the public's lack of knowledge about the proposals. Perhaps it is time the council or the Church took responsibility for disseminating information.

Children in north Halifax are now the lowest priority in Calderdale in terms of access to secondary schools, unless they either have a Church connection or are able to get into a grammar school.

Distribution should either be as equal as possible or varied, according to need and demand. It is those who do not attend church who are presently neglected. Parental demand has been ignored and why is the Bishop in Wakefield the best person to meet the needs of non-church attenders? How will he overcome his bias towards his chuch attenders?

The staff and pupils at Holy Trinity School, who are recognised as being successful and improving, will be rewarded with insecurity.

Headteacher Paul Triner will lose his job, other staff may lose theirs and all pupils will lose their guarantee of a place.

Also, the pupils from The Ridings who did make good progress last summer have been rewarded with disruption and long journeys to school.

It is hard to imagine any other type of school creating as much conflict within a community as an academy. We are being bullied by people in positions of power to accept a system that is detrimental to harmonious relationships between sponsors, teachers, parents and pupils.

By endorsing an academy the council is washing its hands of its duty of care towards families in north Halifax, and by sponsoring one, the bishop is asking parents to wash their hands of their duty of care towards their children.

Jane Smith