STUDENTS
22/05/2012 07:46 BST

Downhills Primary School Closes As Teachers Strike Over Academy Status

Striking teachers and parents took part in a protest on Tuesday outside a school which is resisting academy status.

Downhills Primary School in Haringey, north London, which was placed in special measures earlier this year after failing an Ofsted inspection, was closed to pupils as all 20 teachers went on strike.

The teachers, who are all National Union of Teachers (NUT) members, were joined by up to 30 parents as they demonstrated over the proposal by the Department for Education (DfE) to force the establishment to become a sponsored academy.

MP for Tottenham David Lammy has lent his support to the primary, saying the school "is in the process" of turning itself around.

Parent Sarah Williams, 40, who has two sons at the school, said: "There is absolutely no evidence that a change in structure improves children's educational outcomes.

"When the process first started I thought it was about improving the school, but as we've got further along I've realised it's all about Micheal Gove's ideologies that the only way to improve is to introduce profit.

"If you look at the figures, this school was already improving, and there's absolutely no reason why the school can't continue to improve if left the way it is."

She said the parents and teachers are due to attend an event in nearby Downhills Park later, where there will be entertainment including children's poetry workshops with former Children's Laureate Michael Rosen.

NUT London regional secretary Tim Harrison said: "The interests of Downhills School are best served by it continuing to be a local community school supported by governors from the area and maintained by the local authority.

"There is very little support for the Government's intervention to seek to impose an unwanted sponsor and the school becoming an academy.

"The Government would do well to listen to representatives of the community, parents and teachers and encourage the local authority to speak out in support of the school and to provide assistance to enable it to recover from the damage done by this unnecessary intervention and continue to improve as a community school."

A statement on the school's website said it would be closed today "due to the strike".

The DfE has maintained that the school, which was also placed in special measures in 2002, has struggled to obtain the required standards for years and that the independent inspection was necessary.

Since the latest Ofsted inspection, the headteacher, Leslie Church, has resigned while in March, Gove sacked the governing body and an interim panel was appointed.

The school has 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.

Downhills, which is more than 100 years old, last came out of special measures in 2005 but in January 2010 was told by Ofsted that "significant improvement" was needed.

Academies are semi-independent state schools that receive funding directly, rather than through a local authority, and have more freedom over areas such as pay and conditions and the curriculum.

The programme was first introduced under Tony Blair's Labour government, with the aim of boosting standards in disadvantaged areas.

Since coming to power, the coalition has opened up the scheme to allow any existing school to apply for academy freedoms.

A spokeswoman for the DfE said: "Downhills has been underperforming for several years. Most recently Ofsted found that it is failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education and that those responsible for leading, managing and governing the school are not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvement.

"That is why we have appointed an interim executive board to give the school the leadership and expertise it needs to improve."