Monday, 14 January 2013

Libs Dems out of touch with our schools

Another week and another step forward in our battle for a fair deal for Ponteland and Tynedale's schools. As many of you will know the Lib Dem County Council has in place pension arrangements which essentially prevent many local schools from being able to convert to academies.

I'm sad to say it but Lib Dem Councillor Derek Kennedy, who heads the Council's Pension fund is simply out of touch with the concerns of Tynedale's schools.

Cllr Kennedy and his Lib Dem colleagues are totally wrong to dismiss the concerns of local head teachers and governors on this issue. Some schools are very concerned that their options are being limited, because of the stance this Council is taking. I will not allow anyone, including the County Council, to hold back our local schools. Our children need the best possible education, and putting a 20% surcharge of our local schools becoming academies is limiting their prospects.

If a school wants to become an academy the County Council has unilaterally decided to charge higher contributions to the Pension Scheme for an academy than if the school were a maintained school.
There is no financial justification for this, as other authorities with similar age and debt profiles do not do this. Indeed, Northumberland is effectively unique in the country in its approach.

The consequence is that any school who wants to become an academy is prevented from doing so because it would face a financial penalty in the process.

Part of the background to this is the County Council's decision on Allendale Middle School. The County Council are looking to close it. If it does not survive other Middle Schools will be wondering about their fate, and the Councils approach to their continued existence. It is noteworthy that officers at the Council chose not even to offer academy as an option to the Allendale Middle School, when they unilaterally announced closure this autumn. Even though they are statutorily obliged to do this. Local people are drawing their own conclusions from that decision.

Our schools should be free to compete with the best in the region and indeed the whole country. County Hall are stopping academies happening. Just as with their unpopular push for two tier education, they need to remember our schools here in Tynedale matter too. I won't
let them be ignored.

The Background:
Local schools are being told by the Lib Dem led County Council that they will need to make significant contributions for up to 25 years to build up their stake in the pension fund, as well as seeing their employer contributions rising from 12% to 26%. This could mean schools having to find over £300,000 per year just to uphold pension arrangements. Northumberland's LGPS Fund is due to be revalued in the next few years with the potential for the schools to be asked for even greater contributions.