The county cabinet member for education has expressed his belief every school within the area will become either an academy or free school.
Conservative councillor Peter Griffiths made the comments at a children and young people’s select committee last Thursday, which rejected a petition calling for the council to cease support for its academy programme in light of concerns over Worthing High School’s controversial conversion last month.
Scott Maynard, who presented the petition signed by more than 500 people on behalf of the Worthing High Academy Action Group, revealed he had been “shocked into action” in backing the protests which resulted in strikes. He believed along with a number of other parents that there should have been a formal public debate surrounding plans for Worthing High School.
Mr Maynard felt there needed to be more transparency in the academy process to include a due diligence system for determining whether schools were suitable candidates for changing status.
Worthing High School’s management, which declined to attend the meeting, has stated it stood to lose out on hundreds of thousands of pounds if it failed to go ahead with the move. Its plans progressed despite being under two investigations from West Sussex Council – which refused The Herald a freedom of information request on its findings.
Mr Griffiths said that despite “having had our first four academies forced on us by the Labour government,” there had been some excellent rates of attainment with the county’s 27 academies.
While insisting there would be no pressure on schools regarding timetables for becoming academies, Mr Griffiths felt supporting academy expansion was right.
He said: “One in five children in the county are now going to academies and I am confident that we will see similar success with future academies in realising improvement in education. One day all schools will be academies or free school.”
Worthing Liberal Democrat county councillor Bob Smytherman proposed a series of six recommendations to improve the academy screening process. These were rejected by committee members who claimed issues were already being dealt with.
Mr Smytherman, who underlined that he was not against academies in principle, said: “It’s been very difficult to engage with anyone at Worthing High in this process.
“As the local member it would have been very nice for someone from the local school to come to me.”
He added: “I think it is outrageous that Worthing High was not discussed at the committee meeting , as the council needs to learn a lot from the issues that have happened there.”