Academy row is set to continue; Union and bosses head for collision.
SENIOR officials of a teaching union are on a collision course with education bosses in Durham this week when they meet over controversial academy plans.
Claire Vasey, Durham County Council's cabinet member for children and young people, insisted there were no plans for a U-turn.
This is despite teachers staging a one-day strike against the proposed closure of one of the schools affected..
Now industrial action could be stepped up. Staff members of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) at Belmont School and Community Arts College in Durham staged a one-day strike on Thursday, May 7 against a proposal to close it and merge with another in the city, Gilesgate Community Sports College, to form an academy under private sponsorship.
On Wednesday, union president Amanda Haehner and general secretary Chris Keates are part of a high-powered delegation meeting the council's David Williams, corporate director of children and young people's services, and Coun Vasey in a bid to persuade them to abandon the proposal.
But Coun Vasey, speaking at a council meeting last week, insisted that the academy in Durham would go ahead, saying it was part of a "strategic approach" to the future of education in the county.
In answer to a question by Liberal Democrat councillor Carol Woods, she said a consultation meeting at Sherburn Village, one of Belmont's feeder primary schools, had been "very positive," adding the feedback showed people there wanted an academy. But Simon Kennedy, regional officer for the NASUWT, retorted: "On the day of the strike our members went around the area, including Sherburn Village, with a petition signed by 500 people opposed to an academy.
"Not one person refused to sign.
That does not indicate to me any support for an academy in Sherburn Village.
"Our members went on strike because they want to continue to be employed by the county council, and not by a private consortium." Mr Kennedy refused to rule out further industrial action from his members. Under county council plans to build three new academies, Belmont School and Community Arts College, Durham Gilesgate Sports College and Sixth Form Centre, Moorside Community Technology College, Consett Community Sports College, Greencroft Business and Enterprise Community School and Stanley School of Technology would close.
The proposals would see academies - independent, state-funded schools - built in Durham, Consett and Stanley, co-sponsored by the council and an outside group.
In Durham and Consett the private partner would be the Durham Excellence in Education Partnership, led by Durham University. In Stanley it would be New College Durham Opponents say the schools listed for closure are improving and turning them into academies would remove them from local control..