Academy plan gets county council backing

PLANS to transform a school in Eastbourne moved another step forward today after county education officials rubberstamped plans for ETC to be replaced with an Academy.

East Sussex County Council, in partnership with Sussex Downs College, agreed outline plans for an Academy at the Brodrick Road school at a meeting on Tuesday morning.

The green light means the Academy would be on the current ETC site, would be the same size as the existing school, and bound by all the same admissions and Special Educational Needs policies. Work is likely to start in 2010.

The process for the Academy began in July when councillors, with Sussex Downs College as the lead sponsor and the county council as co-sponsor, agreed to begin drawing up proposals for the Academy, which will specialise in science and digital technologies.

Those proposals have been agreed and will now go to the Government for approval.

If they are approved by Government the plans will form the basis of a feasibility study lasting until spring 2010.

This would develop the detailed proposals for the Academy including the curriculum and the initial designs for the new buildings.

During this stage there will be extensive consultation with the public including students, parents, staff and the wider community.

Not everyone has been in favour of ETC being replaced with an Academy however. When it was first announced there was opposition from governors, staff and parents and even now many staff members are concerned for their jobs in the future.

The document agreed by the county council's cabinet committee this week is formally called the Expression of Interest and maps out the basic details of what is planned including how many pupils the new school will cater for, up to 180 pupils a year, 900 in total, and the proposed opening dates.

The plan is for the Academy to open in ETC's existing buildings in 2010. The target completion date for the new building is 2013.

The document also contains details from sponsors Sussex Downs College and East Sussex County Council and partners Brighton University, about their planned vision for the new school.

All have said they want to create a school that students, parents and other Eastbourne people can be proud of and they believe that this is the best possible way of achieving this.

Councillor David Elkin, the county council's lead member for Learning and School Effectiveness said, "This approval means we can move to the next step of the Academy process for Eastbourne.

"It is important to stress we are still at the early stages and there is still a long way to go.

"This document will now be submitted to Government and it will look in detail at the plans and decide if they are suitable. If they are approved there would be an extensive consultation where we would talk to local people, students, prospective students, parents, staff, governors and any other interested parties.

"This proposal outlines just how committed we are to improving standards in Eastbourne. We believe the Academy would provide the best opportunity to transform the buildings at ETC and allow the continuation of the recent improvements at the school.

"It offers the chance to bring in significant Government funds to make major improvements and would include a state-of-the-art building and technology to really give young people in the area a great start. The Academy plans also mean we could draw on the knowledge, expertise and experience of Sussex Downs College, a further education provider which is known and trusted in the town, to give our young people a great basis for education.

"To improve the standards of education, contribute to the community and get a state-of-the art building in doing so, can only be a good thing for young people in the town."