AN education revolution is about to sweep across Banburyshire as schools, parents and stake-holders seek to capitalise on the Coalition Government’s headline education policies and encouragement from local authorities.
Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet has confirmed it is seeking sponsors for new academies and free schools across the county and will spend more than £100 million building ten new schools near new housing developments, including Bankside and Upper Heyford.
An academies specialist from a leading Banbury accountancy firm, which is helping Oxfordshire schools make the transition to academy status, said the encouragement from the county council means most Banburyshire schools could become academies within two years, giving them greater freedom from central and local government control in how they operate and spend funds.
Martin Wyatt, of Whitley Stimpson in Hightown Road, said: “Within two years I believe you will see the majority of schools in our region either in the conversion process or having converted to academies.
“Initially the county council was not indicating its view, but now it is encouraging all schools to convert. This is an historic decision for the region and paves the way for a brighter future for the county’s children.”
Mr Wyatt said conversion will give schools significant financial and educational advantages.
He added: “It gives them freedom and independence to function as a business and set staff pay and conditions. Another major advantage is that any surplus they retain can be ploughed back into their schools, so there’s a real financial incentive.”
“They also have greater freedom to make decisions on their curriculum and the timing of their holidays and the school day and they can make changes that are appropriate for their school,” he added.
In recent times Banbury School, Chipping Norton School, North Oxfordshire Academy, Chenderit School and Dashwood School have all converted to academy status.
Hanwell Fields Community School, Kineton High School, Shipston High School and Brackley’s Magdalen College and Southfield Primary schools have recently had academy applications accepted by the Department for Education.
The Warriner School in Bloxham has also tabled an application.
Mr Wyatt – who along with his specialist education team is currently helping 30 Oxfordshire Schools navigate the complex regulations surrounding the conversion process – added: “It allows schools to come out of the nanny state and use services that are just as efficient so more money can be put into educating the child.”
The county council’s plan encourages all schools to convert to academy status but also aims to create 4,000 new primary school places and 2,500 new secondary school places to make up for a serious shortage in the county and provide schooling for children at new housing developments like Bankside and Upper Heyford.
But one Banbury parent said the current lack of available primary school places has forced her to consider proposals for setting up a free school -another key Coalition government initiative.
Mother of two Alison Hastie said she was forced to enrol her daughter at St John’s Priory independent school after her daughter was not allocated any of the top three choices on her application forme.
She is calling on parents to express their interest in setting up a free school by signing up to the New Schools Network – a web forum to share ideas about founding new schools.