A drive to transform schools into academies has cost Birmingham City Council £100,000 as its staff deal with applications, the authority’s education chief has revealed.
Coun Les Lawrence, cabinet member for children, young people and families, said council staff were “working flat out” to deal with applications from city schools wishing to leave local authority control.
The four schools that have either moved to “convertor academy” status are Bartley Green Technology College, Lordswood Girls School, Harborne, Kings Norton Girls School and Ninestiles School in Acocks Green.
A further 10 schools have applied to convert to academy status, including Stockland Green Technology College.
Coun Lawrence ordered a “financial audit” in February to determine exactly how much is being spent by the authority on handling applications.
He said a team of 17 staff were dealing with legal and HR matters concerning academy applications “in addition” to their normal workload.
“Staff are working flat out,” said Coun Lawrence, who has been a vocal critic of Education Secretary Michael Gove’s push for greater numbers of academies.
“Within the directorate we have an ad-hoc team which has previously been working on the traditional academy applications, and they have in part taken on the responsibilty for co-ordinating the applications from those schools who want to become convertor academies.
“This is in addition to their other work and has never been funded, so its a pressure on the core local authority budget in excess of six figures.
“In a sense, the secretary of state is taking money off the local authority to help fund the convertor academies process at the same time as passing on front-loaded reductions to the local authority.
“This is money that could be spent on other services. £100,000 plus is a not an insignificant amount of money that could go towards paying two to three new children’s social workers.”
Academies are publicly funded independent schools, free from local authority and national government control.
Other Birmingham schools which have identified an intention to convert to academy status include King Edward VI Aston School, King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Boys, King Edward Camp Hill for Girls, King Edward VI Five Ways School, King Edward VI Handsworth, Arthur Terry School and Sutton Coldfield Grammar School for Girls.
Coun Lawrence’s comments come as latest figures from the Department for Education show more than 600 academies are now open.
Lord Hill, Minister for Schools, said he was “delighted” so many schools had made the switch to academy status.
He said: “As academies they can decide what is best for their pupils, parents and the local community, free from red-tape and politicians.
“By setting good schools free and improving performance in weak schools we will raise standards for all children no matter their background.”
But Coun Lawrence said he expected to see the number of Birmingham schools applying for academy status to tail off over the coming months and years.
He said: “A lot of heads are now saying that they had started to consider it, but many now would rather remain within the local auhority framework than outside it.
“Birmingham has a family of schools that have worked together, supporting each other to raise the levels of attainments in the city to equal, and in some cases above, the national average.”