A COUNCIL leader and a union are calling for a widespread community consultation as two schools bid to join a new academy trust.

Hameldon College and Sir Thomas Whitham Sixth Form have announced plans to leave Lancashire County Council and join the Pennine Federation trust.

It comes as county council figures show the Burnley schools to be in collective debts of £2.3million — £1.4million at Hameldon and £961,000 at Thomas Whitham.

However Thomas Whitham's acting head said academy status would be ‘highly positive’ and give them more financial control.

David Sheridan, the acting headteacher at Thomas Whitham, said their aim was to encourage parents to keep pupils in Burnley. He said: “From our point of view it is all highly positive. Becoming an academy means we get more control over our curriculum as well as our finances.

“We offer a great education.

“Last year there were 38 A* grades and our pupils are going to Oxford and Cambridge — we want to keep that going. The financial situation is due to a certain extent to the Building Schools for the Future situation several years ago.

“It isn’t a problem, we can pick our way out. This move will help us do it.“ Mr Sheridan added that pooling resources with Burnley College, the home of the Pennine Federation, would save costs but said there were no redundancies planned.

Burnley Council leader Mark Townsend said: “I would just urge everyone involved to carry out a full consultation as this is a big change affecting many parents. I would like to see the utmost transparency from everyone involved.

“We need to see the Pennine Federation and the schools involved making themselves available to answer the many questions people will have.”

Lancashire NUT secretary Sam Ud-din said: “The plan will be to centralise HR for example at Burnley College so it is cheaper.

“It is a business decision and one which takes schools away from an experienced education authority.

“Financially the schools have over expanded and not planned far enough ahead. It remains to be seen what happens to the defecits.”

Hameldon Community College’s website said a formal consultation with parents, carers and staff will follow in the coming months.

Both they and the Pennine Federation were unavailable for comment.