Skegness Academy will continue offering free trips despite ‘unprecedented attack’

Skegness Academy.
Skegness Academy.

Skegness Academy will continue providing students with ‘valuable’ external activities despite encountering an ‘unprecedented attack’ after funding a £32,000 trip to America, its chief executive has said.

In a letter to parents and pupils at the academy, Greenwood Dale Foundation Trust’s Barry Day said he fully supported the decision to fly 40 sixth form students to New York next month and expressed his disappointment with the local councillors and press for criticising it.

He said: “I made it absolutely clear that the GDFT believes activities away from the classroom are as valuable as work in the classroom, sometimes more so.

“This is our stance and the evidence shows that it pays dividends with pupil attitudes, behaviour and motivation.”

Having established the GFTD’s 13 academies exclusively in areas of deprivation, Mr Day says that funding such trips provides pupils with educational opportunities, some would otherwise miss out on ‘because of financial constraints.”

He has also highlighted the academy’s ‘significant achievements’ in raising standards of attainment, with more than half its students receiving five or more GCSE A* to C grades in 2012.

Praising his staff’s ‘hard work and determination’ he felt the councillors and local media would have been ‘ecstatic’ about the results, rather than critical.

He said: “I started the GDFT with one aim in mind - to support educate, encourage and inspire youngsters in communities where there is disadvantage and/ or educational underachievement.

“With the support of exceptional staff and positive and supportive parents, this is what we have achieved and despite some of the unfair criticism we may experience this is what we will continue to do.”

Mr Day has focused much of his retaliation on Coun Mark Smith, whose concerns about the trip’s cost on the taxpayer and what he saw as the unfair funding disparity between the academy and other education providers, featured in several national newspapers.

Coun Smith has since posted a reply to Mr Day’s comments on social networking sites, clearing up a number of ‘inaccuracies’ he says it featured.

He claims not to have initiated the publicity and says it arose when the BBC contacted him for a comment on the issue, which he offered as a county councillor and not, as some have criticised, as a ‘jealous’ Skegness Grammar School governor.

Coun Smith has also insisted he has no ‘problem with the purchase of school uniforms’ as Mr Day had claimed, acknowledging that in a deprived area, some children ‘really benefit from this.’

Reiterating his original concerns, he referred to the ‘worst case scenarios’ that parental choice will be eroded if one provider monopolised the local education market by attracting students with free laptops and free trips, which other providers cannot afford due to the funding disparity which exists.

Fellow county councillor Colin Davie has also expressed concerns publicly about the inequality of funding, which he too believes will see some children lose out.

He said: “We want to see standards raised for all but we also want to ensure that every child and family has the same opportunity, which cannot be brought about when there’s an uneven playing field in terms of funding.”

When asked to comment on whether the funding inequality could lead to one provider dominating the local education scene, the GDFT chose not to comment, claiming it would be ‘misinterpreted’ and that it had said all it had to say in Mr Day’s statement.

There were more than 300 comments on the Standard’s Facebook page relating to the issue, with opinions fairly evenly divided.

Many commenters felt it was a fantastic opportunity for the children and could not see why it should be criticised, whereas others felt it was an excessive cost for the taxpayer and would have been fairer had more children been offered a less expensive excursion.

To read Mr Day’s statement in full visit GDFT