Gove sacks governors to create new academy

Education Secretary instals 'great friend of Prime Minister' to lead primary in Haringey

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The Independent Online

A London school has all but lost its battle to avoid becoming an academy after the Education Secretary invoked special powers to sack the governors against parents' wishes.

Michael Gove has forced the school's hand by issuing a compulsory Academy Order and drafting in an "interim executive board" to Downhills Primary School in Haringey, north London. The board includes two people from the government's preferred academy sponsor, the Harris Federation, set-up by carpet mogul Lord Harris of Peckham, a "great friend" of the Prime Minister .

The board is charged with raising standards and will consult on whether the Academy conversion, with Harris as sponsor, should take place. But Downhills looks almost certain to become the 14th Harris academy after the Coalition used swingeing powers, introduced by Labour, on Thursday.

Hours later, Lord Harris, who is chairman of Carpetright and whose burning shop in Tottenham became emblematic of last summer riots, was presented with an outstanding achievement to retail award by David Cameron.

Speaking by video link from the United States, Mr Cameron said: "For a long time Lord Harris has been a great supporter and a great friend to me. He's also been a hugely successful retailer with Carpetright, one of the heroes of our economy and of society too.

"The children [at Harris schools] are well behaved, the teachers have authority, there's ambition and high expectation, so much of that can be traced back to the passion of one man.".

This is the latest twist in the heated academies battle, which last month saw protesting parents labelled as "Trots" by Mr Gove. It is the fourth time the Coalition has used its powers to replace school leaders, which some argue blows a hole in its so-called localism agenda.

Last month Downhills' head teacher Leslie Church resigned, despite full backing by the governors and parents, after the school was placed in special measures by Ofsted inspectors, despite signs of improved results.

The DfE maintains that the interventions are justified as part of a drive to improve standards across the country.

But Haringey council, who will lose control of the school, said the DfE had consistently failed to demonstrate how academy status would lead to improvements in primary schools. "Becoming an academy is ultimately a decision for the school following proper consultation with parents who need to be convinced it is the right solution and not simply told it is. Haringey's primary schools are improving at a faster rate than the country as a whole," it added.

A DfE spokesman said: "Ofsted has found that the school is failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education and that those responsible for leading, managing and governing the school do not have the capacity to secure the necessary improvement."