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From The Socialist newspaper, 21 January 2009

Students fight academy status

Excerpt from a letter sent to The Socialist

Weston Favell School Student Council
Northampton

Weston Favell School (WFS) in Northampton is threatened with academy status starting from September 2009, with the United Learning Trust (ULT) as sponsor. We, the student council, have our concerns about academy status. Having gathered information from many sources, including government websites, the anti-academy website and the ULT website, we impartially delivered assemblies to the rest of the students and then polled them. The result was an overwhelming 88% against academy status.

WFS, along with other secondary schools in Northampton, has endured disruption over the last few years because of the change from the three-tier to the two-tier education system. WFS suffered more disruption than most of the other schools because we have been on a split site for four years with teachers having to travel back and forth. Only this academic year have we all been on one site and fully staffed.

The current head teacher, Dr Jones, has been here for two years and within that time she, the staff and the governors, have managed to turn the school round to the point of it being virtually unrecognisable. I have attended WFS since the change from the three-tier system. Poor behaviour was rife and the facilities were in desperate need of updating. Now the staff has gained respect and control, and the behaviour in classes has improved dramatically. We have a brand new school with modern and purpose-built facilities. We are heading in the right direction but academy status will result in plunging the school back into chaos.

Despite the fact that we got marked 'satisfactory', with 'good' features from Ofsted, we have become a 'national challenge' school. [National challenge schools face possible closure if they do not improve.] This does not take into account that over 40% of students are deemed to have special educational needs and that WFS has the highest level of social deprivation in the whole of Northamptonshire. Exam results look set to improve in the next two years, as a result of the hard work by staff and pupils. Some of us have come to the conclusion that central government want to turn us in to an academy to fulfil their political agenda; to 'prove' that academies work.

ULT was given the 'employers' badge of shame' by the public sector union Unison. A staff ballot suggests that there is a real possibility of many staff leaving which would upset our education when what we need to meet the national challenge is continuity.

WFS is now the only mixed gender and non-denominational secondary school on the east side of Northampton. As a ULT academy we would have a Church of England ethos, seriously limiting parental preference.

I oppose WFS being made into an academy because, as well as the above reasons, I think academies are a step towards parents having to directly pay for their children's education. This would result in poorer families having to send their children to the worst schools. I think this because academies are basically private schools where the state pays the fees. How long will it be until they stop paying? I think a stand needs to be made now.

I think that the readers of The Socialist and the members of your party will be able to see our point and we need as much advice and help as we can to stop this. Please see our e-petition at http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/Save-WF-School/ .

Joe Archer, Chair of Weston Favell School student council

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