A high school in Northumberland deemed to be failing is to pursue becoming an academy.
Prudhoe Community High was placed in special measures following a recent Ofsted inspection.
Now, it has emerged that governors are looking at seeking academy status, by which the site would become directly funded by the Government and independent of local authority control - if they are not allowed to remove it from special measures and continue as before.
However, the move has caused concern among staff and trade unions, who fear academy status would impact on teachers’ pay and conditions, and the loss of local control.
The plan has also raised questions over the funding of a planned rebuild of the school.
The high school was one of 17 in Northumberland visited by inspectors in October amid concerns over standards of education in Northumberland. Inspectors found the school’s leadership and management to be inadequate.
This was primarily because the site’s arrangements for safeguarding students gave “serious cause for concern” and insufficient action had been taken to remedy weaknesses following a serious incident.
Senior leaders and governors had not ensured students’ safety when accessing the internet, Ofsted found, as the systems to control and monitor use were ineffective.
Chair of governors Eileen Burt has now revealed that they are looking at becoming an academy, with Government guidance currently saying that schools placed in special measures either go down this route, or close.
She said: “When you go into special measures there is an expectation that you consider academy status and that is really all that has been agreed.
“I do not think it is anything that anybody wanted to do.
“We had the Department of Education (DoE) here, that is what they expected us to do.
“The staff are not happy but I think that is not unexpected.”
Coun Burt, a town and county councillor for Prudhoe, claimed there is a “fear of the unknown” for workers and acknowledged the situation is “very sensitive in the community” adding: “We have done a lot to try and reassure parents.”
Coun Burt said the safeguarding issues raised by Ofsted had been dealt with, which included need to install fencing and locks at the site.
She said governors would prefer to be allowed come out of special measures, rather than become an academy or close.
Coun Burt insisted nobody wants the school to shut.
“That is not an option because there is not another school (in the area) that can take 850 pupils.
“The county council do not want to close it, the ideal would be to get it out of special measures.”
Last night, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers Northumberland branch secretary Richard Woolhouse said the union’s members at Prudhoe high are concerned over the impact on their pay and conditions.
He said: “We do not like academies because you lose control over the schools. Being part of an academy chain that could be based miles away, it might have an impact on conditions.”
The school was one of three Northumberland County Council put forward for DoE funding for a rebuild.
It was successful although the site was not to be given money in the first round of the department’s spending programme. The county council subsequently vowed to make up any shortfall.
Coun Burt last night said she was unclear whether moving outside of local authority control would have any effect on the authority’s funding pledge.
However, she stressed that a new build is “desperately needed.”
The county council failed to provide a comment while school head teacher Dr Iain Shaw declined to comment.