Northumberland County Council's punative approach to local schools will now be stopped: schools in Northumberland which were trying to become academies but were then effectively blocked because of pension concerns have won a victory after the Education Secretary agreed to change Government rules.
For several years schools wishing to break free of council control had been hit with rules forcing headteachers to pay excessive fees to the Council to have their staff covered by local government pension schemes. That money was taken directly from the funds used to pay for educational material, forcing heads across the county to think twice and threatening the success of the scheme.
But yesterday Michael Gove intervened, making it clear in a parliamentary statement that should any academy close down with pensions liabilities, the Government would step in and cover the losses.
I would expect several Northumberland schools which have been holding back from a move to academy status may now reconsider their options.
For example, the 20% surcharge saw Berwick Academy forced to take an extra £90,000 from money which should have gone on children’s education to pay the Council
Meadowdale Academy was also handed punishing pensions surcharges, with the Bedlington school losing £66,000 a year – money taken from teaching budgets.
Haltwhistle Middle School was among those said to have been prevented from converting as a result of the new fees it would face.
Now in a letter to me, Michael Gove has said the Government will underwrite the risk of an academy failing, removing any possible justification for the local authority to impose a surcharge.As I commented to the Journal:
“This announcement we have secured blows out of the water any justification they may have had for their financial block on academies."
Full report in todays Journal: http://www.thejournal.co.uk/news/north-east-news/government-intervenes-northumberland-academies-row-4846645