I visited one academy in Nottinghamshire and the Headteacher told me that he had no interest in what happened beyond the fence. He saw that as a line and beyond that it was " nothing to do with me guv"- or words to that effect. This is what some people feared when academies appeared on the scene. Part of me sees why he wouldn't want to show any interest in the community. He couldn't control it. In theory he could control what happened on the site. The results were good, behaviour good. He was doing his job. Untouchable.
But it's such a shame. Communities were built around schools. They remain one of the few places where people are able to connect. They provide a shared topic of conversation. They have expensive facilities that should not be accessible for a short period of time.
Unfortunately pressures of accountability mean less and less interest is being shown by academies in the communities that surround them. PFI projects are part of the problem. The buildings belong to the academy for a relatively short amount of time despite the vast sums paid for the usage. Any extra use leads to enormous costs. In effect the buildings are rented and why spend extra money on renting the building for community use ? Money is scarce. So sites stand dark and unused for most of the time- beyond 7.00am to 6.00pm 195 days a year.
Our trust does want to engage with communities. Rushcliffe sports facilities are available for hire with the football centre thriving and hopefully we will have a new lettings system up and running in the near future. The Sixth Form befriending work is a wonderful example of community engagement. Arnold Hill is has had a Play Football operation on the site for some years. It is well used. A lettings arrangement is in place too. We believe the sites are for community use if it is at all possible and financially viable.
Farnborough is limited by the PFI project but we have worked with Field Sports Management to increase use of the site and next Thursday we host the second Clifton Awards. Jermaine Jenas and Lilian Greenwood will join us to recognise the sporting, academic and artistic abilities of children from 9-13 across the community. It was a great event last year and this year will be just as good. Academies are there for communities and it is a privilege to have the chance to serve those communities. If you have a spare hour on Thursday evening please come to Farnborough for the awards event. It lifts the spirits.