Primary schools could face closure

MORE than half of Lincolnshire’s primary schools could be at serious risk of closure without a change to the Local Education Authority’s current academies policy, a council report states.

Yesterday, Tuesday, the Children and Young People Scrutiny People met to discuss what position the council should take amidst the rapidly changing education system.

Executive councillor for children’s services, Coun Patricia Bradwell, said: “We have to be prepared for more and more schools becoming academies, in line with the national agenda.

“The scrutiny committee will discuss what our position is regarding academies and what it may mean for the future of the education service and the support we provide.”

The government’s drive to shift power directly to schools has resulted in the creation of far more academies, which no longer fall under the control of LEAs.

With funding for these schools coming directly from central government, Lincolnshire County Council will encounter significant reductions in its education budget and the number of schools it is directly responsible for.

Skegness Academy is just one of 19 secondary schools across Lincolnshire to make this change and several other local schools are also looking into it as the practice becomes more widespread.

However, many vulnerable rural primary schools in the county are too small to attract the sponsors necessary to become an academy.

With a possible £28million reduction in the council’s education budget, the LEA could be left in control of these small, vulnerable schools without a support infrastructure to drive improvement, which could lead to a serious risk of closure.

The current council policy on academies is to remain neutral on any decision made by a school’s to become and academy or remain under the control of the LEA.

However, retaining this policy on academies has been criticised in a council report, as LCC will be unable to predict the rate at which schools transfer over to become academies and will therefore be unsure of its own education budget.

At yesterday’s meeting, councillors were presented with four options for adopting an academies policy. One option with many envisaged benefits is to encourage all schools to become academies as part of the CfBT Academies Trust - an education services provider the council already has strong links with and would be able to assist even the small vulnerable schools.