Downhills Primary School's Governing Body Sacked By Michael Gove

PA/The Huffington Post UK  |  By   |  Posted: 16/03/2012 15:11 Updated: 16/03/2012 15:46

Downhills Primary School
Downhills Primary School's Governing Body Sacked By Michael Gove

The governing body of a school which opposed against plans to turn it into an academy has been sacked by the Department of Education, it has been confirmed.

Governors at Downhills Primary School in Haringey, north London, have already been replaced by an "interim executive board". The school fought long and hard against Michael Gove's attempts to impose academy status, even announcing it would sue the education secretary for illegally forcing the school to convert.

Last month Downhills' headteacher Leslie Church resigned after the school was placed in special measures, following a judgment of inadequate in its latest Ofsted inspection, ordered by Education Secretary Michael Gove.

The Department for Education said the school, put in special measures in 2002, had struggled to obtain the required standards for years and the independent inspection was necessary.

But the school previously claimed that Gove was illegally attempting to force academy status on Downhills and that attainment records and an interim Ofsted report last September suggested standards were improving.

Confirming Church's resignation last month, the school's governing body said they intended to stay in place while decisions were made about its future.

But on Friday a spokesman for the Department for Education (DfE) confirmed it has appointed an interim executive board "to give the school the leadership and expertise it needs to improve".

The move is the fourth time the coalition has used direct powers, introduced by the Labour government, to remove a governing body - they have been used twice for secondary schools, in Kirklees and Wolverhampton, and once so far for a primary school, Nightingale Primary, also in Haringey.

David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, has openly opposed the department's attempts to convert the school. In an interview with the Huffington Post UK last month, he said:

"I was very surprised Gove just disregarded the fact Ofsted were coming back into the school. He literally gave them three weeks to find a sponsor and become an academy. You can't talk about localism and local determination and then foist a particular solution on a group of parents.

"It's wrong to say to some parents 'why don't you go and set up a free school' and to others 'right this is what you are going to have'."

Responding to the news, Lammy said Gove had "dismissed every other conceivable way of improving the school".
“Not only has he given them no say over whether to become an academy or not, he is now not even consulting them over the sponsor.

“There is a clear need to raise standards at Downhills but you can only do so by taking the community that the school serves with you and Michael Gove is failing to do that.”

A council spokesperson said: “The minister made an Academy Order with regards to Downhills Primary School on Thursday. Legislation now empowers him to remove the school’s governing body and replace it with an Interim Executive Board which he has done.

“Haringey Council remains committed to working closely with Downhills and with all our schools, whether they are judged as being good or outstanding or if they’re on a journey of improvement.

“Our aim is that all our schools will perform strongly enough to continue to make their own decisions about their futures and to respond to the preferences of parents."

A DfE spokesman said: "Downhills has been underperforming for several years and Ofsted has now found that the school requires special measures.

"They have 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.

"We have therefore decided to appoint an interim executive board to give the school the leadership and expertise it needs to improve.

"Those connected with the school will then be consulted on whether the school should convert into a sponsored Academy under the leadership of the Harris Federation. Harris are our preferred sponsor for Downhills.

"It is a charity who have turned around 13 previously failing schools in London, eight of which have now been judged as outstanding.

"We think the strong external challenge and support from an Academy sponsor is the best way to improve schools that are consistently underperforming."

Chairman of the new board is Les Walton, chairman of the Young People's Learning Agency (YPLA), former headteacher of Norham Community Technology College in North Shields, and former executive director and chief education officer at North Tyneside Council.

It also includes Dame Sylvia Morris, former head of St Saviour & St Mary Overy Primary School in Southwark and currently mentor to new headteachers across four London boroughs and Governor of Haberdashers Askes Federation Academy.

Dr Dan Moynihan, CEO of the Harris Federation, is also a member, as well as Robin Bosher, (designate) primary director of the Harris Federation, and Ian Hickman, director of policy at the Audit Commission.

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