A publicly-funded Academy is spending £32,000 to take 40 sixth formers to New York as a reward for keeping up with their studies and turning up for school. This is from the Telegraph…
The decision by the Skegness Academy has come under fire from critics who believe the money could be better spent elsewhere.
Five teachers will join the pupils on the four-day “trip of a lifetime” where they will pursue their studies of sport, music, photography, tourism and fashion.
However the teachers’ expenses will not be paid for out of the public purse.
The 1,200-pupil Skegness Academy is one of 13 institutions run by the Greenwood Dale Foundation Trust in the East Midlands.
All are directly funded by the Department for Education, rather than by the local authority. As independent state schools, they are given control over their own budgets.According to the Academy, teenagers who wanted to go on the trip were selected according to a number of criteria including “attendance, attitude and whether the pupil was up to date with their studies”.
On their return from the trip they will be expected to write a 3,000 word essay “which will be formally assessed” and “showcased” at a parents’ evening along with photographs and films taken on the trip.
However the decision to take a small number of pupils to New York was criticised by Ian Stevenson, of the National Union of Teachers.
“It raises a number of issues,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for a small number of pupils.
“But one wonders how the children who were not selected feel. There is also an issue of value for money.
“This is a significant amount which equates to another teacher, which would reduce class sizes and benefit a far greater number of pupils.”
Mr Stevenson added that the trip would raise the profile of the Academy as it sought to attract more pupils.
“From a business point of view you can understand why they are doing it. But I don’t think it does much for education.”
Mark Smith, a local county councillor, was also critical of the trip. “It does seem a disproportionate amount of money to reward children for what I understand was 100 per cent school attendance.
“When money is short in education it does seem almost obscene to spend this amount of money on selected children.
“I am not against travel, I think it broadens the mind. But I do question whether New York was the right place.”
But Kelvin Hornsby, an executive principal with the Trust defended the trip. “It is a wonderful opportunity for the youngsters to extend their life experience. It is opening the youngsters’ eyes to a global community and going beyond the four walls of the classroom.”
The Academy was founded in September 2010, taking over from what was regarded as a failing secondary school.
It has a higher than average proportion of children from poor families and it is drawn from pupils who were unable to gain entry to the local grammar school.
In September 2011 the Academy received a glowing report from Ofsted, the education watchdog.