School considers academy status

Ripon College headteacher Barry Found. (S)
Ripon College headteacher Barry Found. (S)

A SECONDARY school in Ripon is considering opting out of local authority control and becoming an academy.

Ripon College said it was exploring whether to become a state-funded school operating independently of North Yorkshire County Council and had been in talks with a potential academic sponsor – the Outwood Grange family of schools, based in Wakefield.

Headteacher Barry Found said: “The governors at Ripon College are currently considering appropriate and accessible routes for conversion to academy status, as are many governing bodies across the country, “We already have a positive working relationship with the Outwood Grange family of schools who have a record of examination success and high-quality academic and, most importantly, personal development of the young people in their schools.”

If the school does convert to academy status, Mr Found said he would expect it to happen by September in time for the new academic year.

He added: “The governors have yet to make a final decision regarding academy conversion. At the moment, the governors are still researching into a number of issues, including the educational philosophy and business model for an academy.”

According to official figures, more than 10 per cent of secondary schools in England are now academies after legislation was introduced last year to enable any school to adopt the status.

As well as being outside of local authority control, academy schools are given other freedoms including the ability to set their own pay and conditions for staff, and change the lengths of terms and school days.

The Outwood Grange family already consists of around half a dozen schools and if it becomes the academic sponsor, Ripon College would be able to exchange methods of best-practice and pool together resources when buying in those services currently provided by the local authority.

“I would stress it is not a take-over bid – it is a true partnership and the exchange of ideas will work both ways as we share what works best. It is about moving the school forward,” said Mr Found.

“We are a very successful school in our own right. Last year’s GCSE results placed us in the top nine per cent of schools in the country in terms of pupil progress against high performance targets.”

Mr Found could not say when the final decision on converting to academy status would be made, but added: “I would expect a decision imminently, one way or another.”

If the move to academy status does go ahead Ripon College will retain its existing links with other schools including Ripon Grammar and primary schools that together form the Ripon Learning Partnership, as well as links forged with other schools in North Yorkshire.

Across Clotherholme Road at Ripon Grammar School, headmaster Martin Pearman said his school had no plans to convert to academy status at present.

He said: “The governors have been involved in discussions and we have taken advice on the pros and cons. We are thinking it is not something we want to do at this moment in time but we will keep a watching brief.”