THERE is a fierce debate about whether North Taunton would benefit from replacing the two existing secondary schools with an Academy.

My main concern has never been about institutional structures. What interests me is providing the best educational opportunities possible for young people living in North Taunton.

I remain in favour in principle of the original idea for a North Taunton Academy.

It would be fantastic to have a £40 million new-built Academy in North Taunton with greater freedom for the staff to provide innovative courses for the students. What a brilliant statement that would make about giving greater life chances to young people in North Taunton.

That exciting vision does need to be balanced against the anxieties raised by some parents, staff and school governors.

Some estimates of the new cash available have fallen to £15 million, with only partial redevelopment of the Ladymead site.

Doubts have been expressed about the details of the scheme, including the admissions policy, special needs provision and curriculum content at the proposed North Taunton Academy.

And while any change inevitably causes some uncertainty for employees, teachers at both schools are entitled to know what the implications will be for their terms and conditions, including pensions.

St Augustine student numbers are falling, so the status quo is not an option, with an amalgamation of secondary-level education provision being inevitable.

I am not an ideological zealot who supports Academies in all circumstances. I think the vision for a North Taunton Academy remains exciting and offers real potential benefits for young people, but the advocates of the scheme will have to provide serious answers to the questions that have been raised.

A North Taunton Academy is an attractive idea in principle, but only if the practicalities are also right.