Friday 15 November 2013

Now Woodfield School consults on academy conversion

Woodfield School, a secondary special needs school in Kingsbury, Brent has announced that it is consulting on the possibility of converting to secondary status.

It would be the first special needs school to convert and the last of the local authority secondary schools to move to academy status.

The document below has sent out to interested parties and sets out the Governing Body's position:
The Governing Body of Woodfield School is exploring whether to convert to academy status. As part of this exploration, the Governors are seeking responses about whether to convert, especially the reasons for the views that are held. The responses will help inform Governors’ final decision.

Woodfield School is an outstanding school. Governors, staff, and parents are rightly proud of the ethos of the school and of the progress that our pupils make. The school has established a thriving sixth form, is a Teaching School, and is due to expand to accommodate more students from September 2014 as a result of our success. Governors are committed to ensuring that the future of the school is as successful as its past. In an educational landscape where the roles of schools and local authorities are changing, the responsibility of the Governing Body is to ensure that Woodfield School is best placed to succeed and improve in the future. Investigating whether academy status would benefit the school is part of this strategic role.

The national and local context

Education is changing rapidly at national and local level. The Government has made clear  its expectation that academy status will become the norm for schools, with a clear belief that schools and students benefit from the additional freedoms and resources which academy status enables. Over half of secondary schools in England are now academies, including 11 out of 15 mainstream secondary schools in Brent. Smaller numbers of primary and special schools are academies just over 10% of special schools in England are an academy or have been approved to become an academy.

Key principles for an academy
The school is committed to its community ethos and to working with other schools and organisations. This commitment will remain irrespective of whether the school converts to academy status.

If the school does convert to academy status, the Governing Body has agreed that there would be:

·          NO change of school name
·          NO change to the school uniform
·          NO change to the times of the school day
·          NO change to the pattern of school term dates
·          NO private sponsor
·          NO change to staff terms and conditions for existing or future staff
·          NO change to the ethos of the school
Woodfield would retain the SEN focus of Moderate Learning Difficulties (MLD), Severe Learning Difficulties (SLD), and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and the increased size of up to 176 students, that Brent Council has approved to take effect on 1 September 2014.

If Woodfield does become an academy, the Governing Body would continue the current position where parent and staff governors collectively constitute a majority of the Governors
   so those groups with the most interest in the success of the school every single day have the majority of representation on the Governing Body.
What is an academy and how is it different?

An Academy is an independent state school, funded directly from central government rather than through the local authority. An academy has several differences from a community school, including:
·          Being responsible for its land and buildings;
·          Freedom from the requirement to follow the National Curriculum;
·          Being the employer of its staff;
·          Receiving its share of the funding that is retained by the local authority for maintained schools, and having the responsibility for providing those services; and
·        Being part of a new charitable organisation (the Academy Trust) that would have responsibility for the academy. The Governors of the Academy would be the directors and trustees of this Trust.
Some of these responsibilities are already held by Foundation and Voluntary-Aided Schools who, for example, own their land and buildings and employ their staff.

The rationale for exploring academy status
The rationale for exploring academy status is that:

1.      Academies have greater independence to make decisions in the best interests of their students. This includes gaining the responsibility for some services currently provided by the Council, such as school improvement.
2.      The national and local context is encouraging academy status, and an increasing number of outstanding schools locally and nationally have decided that academy status benefits students

What are the arguments for and against converting?

While different people will see different issues as being potential arguments ‘for’ or ‘against’ becoming an academy, the following table outlines some of the arguments in favour of or against conversion.

In favour of conversion
Against conversion
Increased autonomy to make decisions in students’ best interests, including responsibility for some additional services which are currently provided by the local authority
Loss of the local authority as a ‘safety net’, including for some buildings issues
Academy status has support from all main political parties and the political  encouragement to become an academy seems likely to continue irrespective of the outcome of the next election
A fear that academy status represents the fragmentation, or privatisation, of state education.
The school could protect and continue its ethos, including by ensuring that most Governors are parents or staff
Concerns that academies can employ future new staff on different terms and conditions to the current staff.

Where can I find further information? How can I have my say?


More detailed Questions and Answers about what academy status would mean are available on the school website ( or from the school office.

Further information is also available on the Department for Education website ( or through an internet search of ‘academy status’.

You can have your say by:

·          Email
·          Post Woodfield School, Glenwood Avenue, Kingsbury, NW9 7LY
Opportunities have been arranged for parents and staff to meet Governors and hear more about the issues.

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