Campaigning Essex parents win reprieve from academy takeover


Parents and teachers fighting to stop their primary school being taken out of local authority control and turned into an academy have won a temporary reprieve.

Waltham Holy Cross primary school in Waltham Abbey in Essex was due to be transferred to a multi-academy trust on Monday after failing an Ofsted inspection in March 2018.

Parents and teachers, who have been taking part in a series of strike days in protest against academisation, say they were given the news that the transfer had been postponed while on a picket line at the school on Thursday.

Shaunagh Roberts, a parent at the school and a leading figure in the campaign, welcomed the news but said the fight was not yet over. “It’s fantastic,” she said. “Everyone was in tears, everyone was clapping. It’s not over, but we will win, and we will keep on because it’s the right thing.”

Essex county council confirmed the transfer to NET Academies trust had been postponed but indicated the intention was for the conversion to go ahead at the start of the autumn term.

A spokesperson said: “Yesterday evening ECC was copied into a letter from NET Academies to the Department for Education to say the trust was not in a position to complete the conversion on 1 July 2019 but indicated that the trust may be ready to take over the school on 1 September 2019. The school therefore remains a maintained foundation school at the moment.”

An injunction against the transfer of the school to the NET Academies trust has also been sought by parents who have raised concerns over the suitability of the proposed trust to run the school.

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Welcoming the postponement, Kevin Courtney, who is joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “Today is a great day for the Waltham Holy Cross community. Members and parents, working together, have shown that academisation is not a forgone conclusion and can be resisted.”

There have also been developments in the proposed academisation of Budmouth College in Weymouth. A leaked letter to the education secretary, Damian Hinds, revealed that Dorset council has called for the academisation process to be suspended because of concerns about the choice of academy trust sponsor.

The letter from Sarah Parker, executive director for children at Dorset council, said parents and members of the wider community had formed a “negative view” of the Aspirations Academies trust, which runs other schools in the area and is due to take over the college on 1 September.

She said the local community was concerned about the impact of the trust’s “tough love” approach to their students. “We are working hard to support Budmouth College and will continue to support the academisation process. We do however urgently need to address the concerns of parents and the local community,” the letter said.

Parker later confirmed she had written to the education secretary asking for the government to suspend the academisation of the college and explore alternative options.

“We have 100% confidence in the new headteacher, David Herbert, and believe we can work with him to turn the school around. We share the concerns of parents, pupils and the local community and want these to be addressed before this process goes any further.”

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The DfE has been approached for comment. Aspirations Academies trust could not be reached.



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