Somerset heads fear forced Academy move for primaries

Concerns have been raised by a body representing head teachers in Somerset about government plans to force failing primary schools to become academies.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said he wants every primary school in special measures to become an academy.

In Somerset currently seven primary schools have been assessed as failing.

"There are not enough benefits... but considerable risks are involved," said Alison Whitman, chair of the Somerset Association of Primary Head teachers.

Additional responsibility

"There are a lot of smaller schools in the county for whom academy status is not a viable financial option," said Ms Whitman.

"Currently a lot of the schools get their support services, HR, finance, IT and so on through the local authority and benefit from economies of scale available from doing that."

Mr Gove has argued the purpose of academies is to drive up standards by putting more power in the hands of head teachers.

They have more freedom than other state schools over their finances, curriculum, length of terms and school days and do not need to follow national pay and conditions for teachers.

Ms Whitman said some of the smaller schools in Somerset do not have specialised staff who can take on the extra responsibilities demanded by academies.

"There's certainly a lot of additional responsibility in terms of employment of the staff and the necessary redundancy, maternity and employment rights that that would involve, which is not something we currently do," she said.

Of the 206 primary schools in Somerset, five have applied voluntarily to become academies and a further eight have already converted.

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