CONCERNS have been voiced that a raft of new academies could affect Blackburn’s educational structure.

Five Blackburn with Darwen primaries are set to become Church of England academies, leaving the control of the borough council.

The move will divert funding from the local authority to the Church of England’s academy trust, Cidari.

Blackburn with Darwen NUT leader Simon Jones said it was a large number of losses for the small authority, which last year oversaw 50 primary schools.

Education portfolio holder for the council Dave Harling said it would be a blow to other schools, but pledged to work with the church as a partner.

The schools poised to become academies are Sacred Heart RC, St Luke’s and St Phillips, St Aidan’s, all Blackburn; St Barnabas and St James’s, both in Darwen.

It is not yet clear how much funding would be lost to Blackburn with Darwen Council as a result.

Mr Jones said: “They won’t be leaving to join Cidari at exactly the same time, but such a cluster of schools going within months of each other will really weaken the council.

“Though Cidari is a faith-based group, and these are faith schools, we at the NUT are still opposed to academies because of the effect this division causes.

“Cidari has made some reassuring promises to us - such as sticking to a living wage – but we are still opposed to academies in principle.

“I would urge schools to pause and reflect before jumping ship because there is no replacement for an experienced local education authority overseeing provision. Though Cidari seem confident, they haven’t yet proved themselves.”

Coun Harling said: “Each school which leaves the local authority weakens the funding we receive for services.

“That will then go on to affect other schools. However, what we must remember is that the children in Cidari academies are still Blackburn with Darwen children. We will do our best to work in partnership with the diocese for the best.”

Blackburn Diocese director of education Paul Lock said: “Becoming an academy is an option available to all schools and it is up to each governing body to decide whether converting is in the best interests of their school.

“By becoming an academy, schools gain a number of freedoms, including how they deliver the curriculum. We look forward to welcoming all of these schools into the Cidari fold."