Councillor accuses Gove of bullying school into becoming academy

Janet Downs's picture
Ipswich councillor, Alasdair Ross, says the Department for Education (DfE) is putting pressure on the governing body of Sidegate Primary School, Ipswich, to convert to an academy.

Ofsted* judged Sidegate to be inadequate in November 2012 and placed it in the “serious weaknesses” category.  Since then Sidegate has had two monitoring visits both of which noted improvements made at the school and support given by the local authority (LA).

It’s unclear, then, why it should be necessary to hand the school to a sponsor if the last monitoring visit in July 2013 found the “support from the local authority is still at a high level”.

Councillor Ross claims the DfE representative who visited the school on several occasions initially said the Governing Body had to keep the possible academy conversion under wraps.  The Governing Body was told early in the Autumn term the DfE had found a potential sponsor, the Active Learning Trust (ALT), and there was no need to consult with either staff or parents. 

This instruction was changed and a meeting took place with parents and ALT.  Some parents questioned the need to become an academy because the school was improving.

Nevertheless, Councillor Ross feels academy conversion might be the best option in the end – he feels the school has been abandoned by the LA (although Ofsted* states otherwise).  But he says he would rather have seen Ipswich schools combining together.

Councillor Ross feels the Governing Body has been bullied by Education Secretary Michael Gove and his department.   Unfortunately, he’s not alone – when MPs raised the matter in Parliament, the feeble response by schools Minister Liz Truss was that heads might find discussions with academy brokers “challenging”.

“Challenging” is a euphemism for intimidating.  And if heads don’t fall into line they risk their careers.

This is what Gove means when he says those who disagree with him should get out of his way.


*Citing Ofsted judgements does not imply agreement.
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