05 September 2011
Chair of Governors
I hope you are well. I am writing to you as Chair of Governors ahead of the vote on Kenton becoming an Academy. I hope you will pass on my thoughts to the other Governors and I am cc-ing David [Pearmain].
The future of Kenton School is a matter of great interest to me. As MP for Newcastle Central I represent many of the pupils of the school, and their parents. From a personal perspective such success as I have enjoyed both as an engineer and a politician is due in a large part to the school, and its excellent teachers. I was therefore dismayed to learn Kenton School plans to remove itself from the control of the Local Authority, which is to say the people of Newcastle.
I have read David Pearmain’s letter to parents and it seems that the motivation to become an Academy is principally financial, ie in the expectation of additional funding as an Academy. Combined with concern as to the financial difficulties experienced by Newcastle Council because of the cuts imposed by central government.
I want to highlight to you the dangers of taking such a far-reaching decision on the basis of short term financial considerations.
If Academies are benefiting from additional funding then Parliament should take steps to ensure funding is more equitably distributed. The Government is currently analysing responses to its Fair Funding Review and it is sure to be debated in the House. We cannot anticipate the outcome.
Whilst it is true that Newcastle City Council has to implement cuts, it is under new control and looking at innovative ways of strengthening services. It is certainly not the case that it is ‘in decline’ as David’s letter states.
If there are general grievances with regard to how Newcastle Council is working with the School I could better understand the desire to become an Academy but these are not mentioned. The only non financial consideration mentioned is a generalised desire to be at the forefront of a new educational movement.
I would have thought the best way to be at the forefront of education was to ensure excellent teachers offer excellent classes whilst remaining accountable to the people of Newcastle, whose children the school aspires to educate.
I do not see how Academies are accountable to anyone apart from themselves and the Secretary of State for Education. This is a matter of grave concern. Parents, staff and pupils surely have a right to know the school can be held accountable? Promises with regard to admission and employment practises cannot be considered credible otherwise.
I take an intense interest in the quality of education in Newcastle as it is so critical to our city’s future. I hope you will consider the long term impact on the city of your decision.
Chi Onwurah MP
c.c. David Pearmain – Headteacher, Kenton School
Cllr Joanna Kingsland – Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Newcastle City Council