Heads forsake the beach to fret about switch to academy status

20th August 2010 at 01:00
School leaders have a funny idea of 'getting away from it all' as they spend the holidays researching pros and cons online

While most school staff were dreaming about lying on a beach come the end of the summer term, school leaders spent the start of the holidays fretting over becoming an academy, new figures have revealed.

Over the past month, heads and governors have been sending thousands of questions on academies to an independent information service for schools when they should be enjoying their time off.

The Key, a website that provides specialist information to school leaders, said "academies" has become the site's most popular topic.

It is clear that very few, if any, schools will convert to academy status in time for the new term, but many are still exploring the implications of the switch. The Key has some 5,000 school-leader members.

Fe McKerrell, senior researcher on the website, said: "The questions are very broad, reflecting the fact that the new-style academies are a largely unknown quantity. We haven't yet had any questions from school leaders who have made a firm decision and want to know what happens next."

The Key says the most frequently asked questions are usually "What are the pros and cons of becoming an academy?" and "How will becoming an academy affect staff terms, conditions and pensions?"

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said an entire summer holiday is rarely taken by heads and that school leaders should not be fretting about becoming an academy during the break.

"The Government has made it clear there is no specific timetable for academy approval, and schools that want to make an application should do so in their own time and at their own pace," he said.

"But I don't know of any secondary head or school leader who takes a full six weeks' holiday. They would consider it normal to work for part of it. You can't get the job done in 39 weeks of term and it has always been like that."

The surge in interest from heads and governing bodies follows a letter from Education Secretary Michael Gove, sent to all schools in May, inviting them to consider academy status. Mr Gove said last month that more than 1,000 schools had applied to become academies before publishing a list that contained just 153 schools.

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