Turning Harrogate schools into academies 'won't make them better', head warns

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Every state school in Harrogate will be converted into an academy by 2022 as the Government aims to improve teaching standards across the country.

The national proposal, announced in Wednesday’s budget by Chancellor George Osborne, will affect a number of schools across the Harrogate district.

St John Fisher, a voluntary aided faith school, will soon have to become a publicly funded academy but their headteacher warned this would not guarantee any school’s success.

Headteacher, Rob Pritchard, said: “We were expecting this announcement but all the evidence suggests it’s not the government that makes a school outstanding.

“It’s a political decision to take schools away from local authority control. It’s not going to mean it’s any better, it will just mean a change of governance.”

North Yorkshire County Council said its only focus was on the ‘quality of education’ provided but said they were disappointed to be dismissed as ‘controlling bureaucrats’.

Another of Mr Osborne’s budget announcements meant pupils could have a longer school day by allowing headteachers in some schools to extend teaching hours.

The move would scrap the traditional ‘Victorian school day’, ending at 3.30pm, with schools able to bid for funding to provide extra curricular activities.

However, the proposals are only expected to be rolled out in 25 per cent of secondary schools and Harrogate Grammar School’s headteacher believes it won’t affect the district.

Headteacher Richard Sheriff said: “It’s a false idea that when the school bell goes at 3.30pm the majority of teachers and children leave.

“We already provide a whole range of extra-curricular activities including sport, performing arts and revision classes that last well into the evening.

“So, I suspect that schools in areas of greater need will be bidding for the money and Harrogate will not benefit from that.”