THE new-look £28 million Culcheth High School will become Warrington’s first academy school – when agreement is reached on the repayment of a £600,000 loan they received from the borough council.
Council chiefs have agreed to give the school a 125-year peppercorn lease for just £1 a year, but say the “public money” must be repaid, with interest, before they agree to transfer.
Earlier this year the school’s governing body voted to seek academy status under the government’s education reforms and its application was subsequently approved by the Department for Education.
The council has now authorised the legal transfer and 125 year lease of the education property to the new school.
The school is hoping to officially become an academy on Saturday October 1.
The government says academies benefit from greater freedoms to innovate and raise standards.
These include: freedom from local authority control, the ability to set their own pay and conditions for staff, freedoms around the delivery of the curriculum
and the ability to change the lengths of terms and school days.
Only last March senior councillors from all three main parties and union leaders at Warrington joined forces to oppose any plans for academy schools – which they said would threaten existing educational establishments.
In a joint statement, they said that opening the Academies Programme to all could disadvantage other schools in the borough and create a two-tier system.
Cllr Colin Froggatt, (pictured) the council’s executive member for education, said: “The leaders of all three parties have said there is no appetite for academy schools in Warrington and this view has not changed.
“But government legislation has changed and as a responsible local authority we have to go along with the legislation for the benefit of Warrington people, in particular the children.”
But he added that the council had borrowed money to enable the new school to be built. This was public money and the council expected it to be repaid with interest.
This might create some difficulties for the academy conversion process, but the council was required to ensure that public money was used appropriately.