Governors of Catholic schools in Sheffield feel ‘cheated and duped’ by order to become academies

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Bishop of Hallam Rt Rev. Ralph Heskett.

Schools in the Diocese of Hallam, which has 16 schools in Sheffield, have been invited by the church to become academies without the governors ever agreeing to start the process, they say.

The decision was also criticized by the school leaders‘ union, the NAHT, in a statement released on Friday. The organization has also held a meeting with governors and school principals who are concerned about the plans.

A letter from the Bishop of Hallam Rt Rev. Ralph Heskett, dated January 2021, said: “Our schools are essential to the fulfillment of our mission and to our parish communities. They actively promote social cohesion, creating a feeling of belonging for all.

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“These are places where every child matters and where safety, well-being, fun, tolerance, respect and dignity are reflected in all aspects of school life.

“Students are cherished for who they are, as much as for what they accomplish, and all achievements are recognized and celebrated. “

He added: “After much work and consideration by diocesan administrators, I have come to believe that the long term future of our schools and Catholic education in the diocese is best served by all schools. diocesan women becoming equal partners in a Catholic Multi-Academy Trust (MAT).

“So I intend, as reported last year, to create two new multi-academy trusts within the diocese with all diocesan schools and academies, including all remaining volunteer schools, being part of one. between them. “

Out of 47 schools in the Diocese of Hallam, which covers Yorkshire and the North Midlands, 19 are volunteer schools, 28 are academies, of which 23 are in single academy trusts.

A document drafted by a committee reviewing the proposals says all schools in the diocese should be transferred to one of two multi-academy trusts.

The union demanded an investigation into the reasons why the government (via the regional school commissioner) issued orders on academies without the agreement of the school governing bodies, as required by the law on academies.

In a letter to the area’s regional school commissioner, NAHT National Secretary Rob Kelsall wrote: -creative processes that led to the issuance of unsolicited section 4 academy ordinances to volunteer schools in the Diocese of Hallam. “

Paul Whiteman, NAHT General Secretary, said: “Becoming an academy can be a positive step for some schools. But only the governing body and leadership of a school can truly understand whether joining a multi-academy trust will bring benefits to students.

“The voluntary academy will bring commitment and success. Coercion backed by threats is counterproductive and doomed to failure.

“Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has categorically stated that he will not set an arbitrary date for schools to become academies and that he supports a system with a variety of different types of schools. This must be respected for all schools in the diocese. by Hallam.

The Department of Education has been contacted for comment.

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