A TOP-performing Catholic secondary school in Waterlooville is to be the first of its kind in the UK to convert into an academy.
Oaklands Catholic School and Sixth Form will open its doors as a state-funded independent school in September.
Headteacher Matthew Quinn has admitted the main reason for this change of governance, which severs the school’s ties from the local education authority, is financial.
He told The News the additional £300,000 the school would receive as an academy – money usually retained by the council to run a range of school services – would help off-set a crippling three per cent cut to his sixth -form budget.
Mr Quinn also believes the school, which boasts a ‘good’ Ofsted rating with outstanding features, can save money by commissioning services like HR and banking from private companies instead of the council.
Mr Quinn said: ‘We started thinking about academy status last November because it meant having the freedom to buy in our own services and get better value for money.
‘On top of that the extra money would enable us to continue the level of provision and hold onto all our staff.
‘The proof of whether our decision was the right one will be if parents and pupils feel there is absolutely no change next year.
‘This is about safeguarding what we already have.’
He added: ‘The question has to be asked, “if I can buy services cheaper from a company that makes a profit, what’s going on in the local authority?”
‘It needs to respond to the flexibility that the open market is providing to schools so that it can compete.’
The Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth has ensured Oakland’s admissions criteria remain for Catholics first, then Christians from other denominations and finally other faiths. Its current pupil intake is between 70 and 80 per cent Catholic.
Mr Quinn said: ‘The character and distinctive ethos of the school will not change.
‘We see this as a genuine opportunity to keep our school at the forefront of educational development.’
When it becomes an academy in September, Oaklands’ governors will become directors of the Catholic Academies’ Trust in Havant chain, which further down the line could absorb other Catholic schools in the area like St Peter’s and St Thomas More primaries, if they choose to go down that route.
· Across the area, Miltoncross, Bay House, Cams Hill and Cowplain secondary schools have applied for academy status. St Anthony’s Primary and The Petersfield School have been approved for academy status by the Department for Education.