Parents who ran a “Hove vs Gove” campaign against plans to turn their local comprehensive into an academy were celebrating a landmark victory today.
Governors at Hove Park School in East Sussex voted unanimously this week against plans to convert the 1,600-pupil school into an academy, after protests from parents and teachers including a one-day strike which closed the school this summer.
Derek Trimmer, the headteacher, had been a strong proponent of the plans since they were unveiled in March, arguing that academy status would give the school more control over its budget and a better chance of winning funding for new buildings.
But in an 11th-hour climbdown he issued a statement on the afternoon of the vote advising governors to reject the plans. All 17 did so. Yesterday he told The Independent that months of debate had convinced him that becoming an academy would have been “too divisive and disruptive to children’s education”.
An earlier parent ballot, organised by the local authority, in which nearly 600 families voted, found that more than seven out of 10 (71 per cent) opposed the academy plans.
Sharon Duggal, of the Hands Off Hove Park School campaign said: “We are delighted at the governors’ decision. There was a lot of strength of feeling about the proposals across the whole community and we are very proud at the way everyone came together to help defeat the proposals.”
Michael Gove was a vigorous advocate of the academies programme, but he lost his job as Education Secretary in the last cabinet reshuffle.
Alasdair Smith, national secretary of the Anti-Academies Alliance, said: “This is a landmark decision. Very few people have managed to fight proposals off in this way.
“It was an unusual situation in that the head wanted it but the staff and the parents didn’t. In that situation the head normally gets his or her way. I can count the number of successful campaigns on the fingers of both hands.
“The significance of this is that it is post-Gove. I think it represents an acknowledgement that the academies bandwagon is slowing. No one can argue that becoming an academy is vital for school improvement because the evidence just isn’t there.
“I think every headteacher will look at this case and realise that you do not need to become an academy to be an improving school.
“This academies project has more problems with it than advantages.”