Parents' anger at 'bullying' to turn their school into an academy
Richard Garner has been Education Editor of The Independent for 12 years and writing about the subject for 34 years. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a disc jockey in London pubs and clubs and for a hospital radio station. His main hobbies are cricket (watching these days) and theatre. On his days off, he is most likelt to be found at Lord’s or the King’s Head Theatre Club.
Monday 22 April 2013
Parents at a primary school are demanding a Parliamentary
inquiry into what they claim are bullying tactics aimed at forcing their school
to become one of the Government’s flagship academies.
The move comes after it was revealed the headteacher, Caroline Phillips, of Roke primary school in Croydon, south London, was resigning a day after they had been informed that she was off work due to stress.
They are also angry that academy chain the Harris Federation is advertising for a new headteacher for the school before an official consultation on its future has been concluded.
A statement from the parents, who are asking the Parliamentary Ombudsman to intervene and conduct an inquiry into the way the affair has been handled, said they “had little confidence that the outcome of the consultation is not a done deal”. “In fact, the whole consultation has been branded ‘fake’ by many Roke parents,” it added.
Moves to compel the school to become an academy were announced after a report by education standards watchdog Ofsted delivered a “notice to improve” on the school last year following two favourable inspection reports. The Government made it clear its preferred sponsor for the academy was the Harris Federation set up by carpet magnate Lord Harris - which already runs a chain of academies.
However, a poll of parents revealed 83 per cent opposed the Harris take-over - and would prefer the school to be linked to its neighbouring secondary school, Riddlesdown, with whom it had already forged links to improve its standards.
They were then incensed that the Harris Foundation was put in charge of the consultation over Roke’s future, arguing: “It is not impartial or transparent to have a consultation run by the party that stands to gain most from the outcome.”
In the meantime, a follow up visit by Ofsted acknowledged that the school was making satisfactory progress towards lifting the notice to improve.
The Government’s plans to force schools to become academies if they receive poor Ofsted reports has caused resentment from parents in a number of areas - most notably over Downhills primary school in Haringey, north London, where it was argued the school had improved after successive years of poor national curriculum test results when the Government stepped in.
Education Secretary Michael Gove dismissed parents’ objections, claiming they showed they were “enemies of promise”. His department has said of the proposal to allow the Harris Federation to take over the school that it has extensive experience of improving schools in London.
A spokeswoman for the Harris Federation said the school would need a new head whether or not it became an academy - and that the advert made it clear moving to academy status was “a proposal”. Any new head would need to give notice at their current post by May 31.
The Department for Education said the consultation had ended on Friday and all views were being considered. The outcome was still awaited.
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