Parents fail to prevent bid to turn Downhills primary school into academy


Campaigners have failed in their High Court bid to stop an underperforming primary school being turned into an academy.

Parents of pupils at Downhills primary school in Tottenham, north London, accused Education Secretary Michael Gove of "bullying" and "riding roughshod" over their wishes.

They asked Mr Justice Kenneth Parker for permission to seek judicial review of Mr Gove's decision to convert the school into an academy sponsored by the Harris Federation, an education charity, at the start of the next school term in September.

The parents argued the school was now thriving and improving and the move made no sense.

Lawyers for the Save Downhills campaign asked Mr Justice Kenneth Parker for permission to apply for a judicial review blocking the change.

They argued the consultation process was flawed and the Education Secretary acted in breach of his statutory duty.

Refusing permission, the judge said it was plain from his decision letter that the Secretary of State "simply had no confidence" that the school would substantially improve if it stayed maintained by Haringey Council.

On the other hand, he "believed firmly" that conversion to an academy would substantially improve performance.

In the light of the school's "egregious" past performance over an extended period of several years, it was a rational decision Mr Gove was entitled to reach, ruled the judge.

The school was placed in special measures in February following an Ofsted report.

Headteacher Leslie Church resigned, the board of governors was dismissed and an interim executive board (IEB) took over running the school while its future was decided.

Leading campaigner Susan Moyse, whose younger daughter is going into Year 6 at Downhills next term, accused Mr Gove of "ignoring" the local community, 94% of which had said "no academy", and abusing his power.

A Department for Education (DfE) spokeswoman welcomed the court's ruling, saying: "We are very pleased that the court has recognised that the consultation and the Secretary of State's decision were undertaken fairly and lawfully.

"Downhills has been under-performing for several years. Ofsted found that the school had failed to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education and that those responsible for leading, managing and governing the school hadn't demonstrated the capacity to secure the improvement necessary.

"The new academy will open in September and will be sponsored by Harris, a not-for-profit educational charity, which has already turned around a number of previously failing schools in London, nine of which have now been judged by Ofsted as outstanding."