Jun 30 2011 By Ben Turner
A PRESTIGIOUS Wirral grammar school last night unveiled expansion plans after confirming it had converted to a centrally funded academy.
Headteacher of St Anselm’s in Oxton Simon Duggan rubbished union fears it would "cream off" the best pupils from Wirral after cutting free from town hall control.
In May last year Education Secretary Michael Gove invited outstanding schools to apply for Academy status and now St Anselm’s – a Christian Brothers Catholic school which dates back to 1933 – has completed the change over.
Academies are free from local authority control, meaning they get funding directly from the Government .
They can set their own curriculum, prioritise funding in areas they see fit and set their own catchment areas and staff pay and conditions. Last night Mr Duggan said the school would not be altering its current entry test or admission policy and any future changes to teachers’ terms and conditions would be to improve them.
But he said the academy status would allow the school, set up on the request of the Bishop of Shrewsbury to ensure Wirral had a Catholic grammar school, to have more control over its curriculum and purse strings.
And the new era coincided with the former Christian Brothers Community House on its site being handed over to the school.
The building, purchased for around £500,000 by school supporters the Edmund Rice Trust will be used as a sixth form block which could see the number of sixth formers increase from 210 to 250.
Mr Duggan said: "As an academy we can take increased responsibility for our own destiny whilst retaining our Catholic ethos and grammar school identity.
"We can prioritise funding without having to wait for permission from the LEA." He said a curriculum review was also under way with history and geography set to be bolstered in view of a new emphasis on the subjects in league tables.
The NUT are against academies claiming they take money from other council-run schools.
And Wirral NUT president Steve Hafford said because the school could set its own catchment and admission rules it could "cream off the best pupils".
He added: "We cannot understand why it would want to undo all the good work it has managed over the years."
But Mr Duggan stressed that as a Catholic school it already took pupils from across the borough and beyond and 10% of the children on roll were on free school meals.
On taking money from other schools, he added: "This is money St Anselm’s should get from the Department For Education and successful schools like ours receive less support and fewer services from the local authority."
Past pupils include Wirral-born rugby star Austin Healy and journalist and broadcaster Peter Stanford.
Current PE teacher Simon Mason was part of the Ulster rugby team which lifted the 1999 Heineken Cup.