South Yorkshire schools ordered to become academies without warning, says union

Several schools in South Yorkshire have been issued with orders to become academies, without their governors ever agreeing to begin the process, a teaching union has said.

Saturday, 8th January 2022, 3:01 pm

Several schools in the Diocese of Hallam will be impacted, the National Association of Head Teachers has said.

The only way schools can be forced to become academies is if they are in special measures.

Otherwise, the governing body of the school, including the head teacher and the chair of governors, must meet and agree to voluntarily make an application to change to academy status.

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Schools across South Yorkshire have been told to become academies, a teaching union says.

The governors for a number of Voluntary Aided schools across the Hallam Diocese, which covers Yorkshire and the North Midlands, say they never agreed to begin the process of academisation and have been left feeling ‘misled and duped’ as they are suddenly issued with orders.

School leaders’ union NAHT has called for an investigation into why the government – via the Regional Schools Commissioner - have issued academy orders without the agreement of schools’ governing bodies, as the Academies Act requires.

NAHT held a meeting last week which was attended by governors and head teachers from local schools who have been issued orders and are concerned by them.

In a letter sent to the Regional Schools Commissioner for the area, NAHT National Secretary Rob Kelsall writes: “Having met with a large number of school leaders and governors last night, it is clear that there will need to be in investigation as to the decision-making processes which led to unsolicited section 4 academy orders being issued to voluntary aided schools within the Diocese of Hallam.

"Please accept this as a formal request for such an investigation to take place.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Becoming an academy can be a positive step for some schools.

"But it is only the governing body and leaders of a school that can truly understand if joining a multi academy trust will bring benefit to pupils.

"Voluntary academisation will bring with it commitment and success. Compulsion backed up by threats is counterproductive and doomed to failure.

"The education secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, has categorically stated that he will not set an arbitrary date for schools to convert to academy status and that he supports a system with a variety of different school types. This must be upheld for all schools in the Diocese of Hallam.”

It is not clear which schools are part of the plan.

The Diocese of Hallam is a territory of the Catholic Church and comprises the whole of the City of Sheffield, and the surrounding towns of Rotherham, Doncaster, Barnsley, Chesterfield, the Peak District and areas of Worksop and Retford.

As well as being in control of a number of churches and parishes across the county, it has a number of Catholic schools across South Yorkshire and the North Midlands under its jurisdiction and the diocese is currently led by the Right Reverend Ralph Haskett, Bishop of Hallam.

We have contacted the Diocese of Hallam for comment.