Feb 10 2011 by David Baker, Harrow Observer
SCHOOLS stand to lose their 'community feel' after registering an interest in becoming academies, according to teaching union members.
Seven of the eight secondary schools that make up Harrow's collegiate system are looking into applying for academy status, and governors at Nower Hill High School, in Pinner, have already voted in favour of the move.
The National Union of Teachers (NUT), which has hundreds of members in Harrow schools, has spoken out against the plans and indicated strike action will be considered.
Divisional secretary of the NUT in Harrow and teacher at Nower Hill High School, Lynne Snowdon, said: "All the teaching unions and support staff unions are totally against any plans for our schools to become academies.
"We have a union meeting scheduled for Thursday (today) at our school and we will be investigating whether there is enough support to carry out strikes. Other high schools in Harrow will be doing the same thing."
The other Harrow high schools registering an interest in applying for academy status are Hatch End, Canons, Harrow High, Rooks Heath, Bentley Wood and Park High.
Academy schools have greater autonomy from local authorities, receiving budgets directly from central government and having more control over pay, curriculum and admissions.
Regional officer of NUT Daryl Long said: "The overwhelming argument against this move in Harrow is that what we have there at the moment are well-performing schools with a real family community feel that have always worked well together.
"The NUT believes that we should retain this family of schools, democratically operated, because the main risk of them becoming academies is that all of a sudden they are in direct competition with each other."
He added: "They would no longer have to operate to national paying conditions which also means schools could employ staff for less money."
If governors agree to move for academy status, as they have at Nower Hill, the department of education will then make a decision on whether to approve it or not.
Councillor Brian Gate (Labour), Harrow Council's portfolio holder for schools and colleges, said: "It will be important for each school to consult fully on any future changes, not only with parents but also with the council, ward councillors, primary schools and the wider community, as our schools are highly regarded and are a major part of community life."
He added: "Regardless of the future status of our schools, we would want them to continue working in full partnership with each other and the council to ensure the high expectations of Harrow residents continue to be met."