I first heard about plans to turn Hove Park School
in East Sussex into an academy less than a month ago and already campaigning against it has become a major part of my life. An email from the local branch of the Trades Council alerted me to the plan and an intended meet-up of parents at the school gates the same day to lobby a governors meeting.
We duly turned out - about 30 of us - parents, carers, students, NUT officials, councillors and even a couple of brave teachers. Both my daughters who are in Year 10 and the Sixth Form also turned out I'm proud to say.
We gathered signatures and exchanged emails and started to put a plan into action. Within a day the students had set up a Facebook page - and a vigorous discussion was going on - the advantage of being one of the first schools in the country to rollout iPads to all students (underpinned by local authority credit).
This helped the students rally and organise their own peaceful demonstration during the lunchbreak - over 100 young people were involved and their efforts won coverage in the local paper.
Meanwhile an online petition
was set up and has already attracted over 1,000 signatures. Support came in from activists Peter Tatchell and Mark Thomas and local Green MP Caroline Lucas has helped collect petition signatures on the street.
Soon the HPS Campaign had over 100 members and an organising committee was set up. Leaflets have been handed out to local primary schools, letters have been written to the paper, but we are still worried that a lot of parents do not know the full implications of becoming an academy.
Parents are struggling to understand why such a move should be made when the school is one of the most improved (and innovative) in the country - all achieved under local authority control.
Teachers are strongly against the move - a union ballot showed that 91% rejected the plan which will weaken their pay and conditions and could lead to the recruitment of unqualified staff.
To date, the only communication sent out to parents is an inaccurate and clearly biased document that speaks of a 'moral imperative' to become an academy. As parents we still have no indication of how and when the promised consultation will take place and our repeated requests for more information have been met with a wall of silence.
For this reason, tomorrow night, Tuesday 29th April we are holding our own Public Meeting at Bishop Hannington Church, Nevill Avenue, Hove, at 6.30pm. We urge anyone in Brighton & Hove who believes in a fair, equal, high quality state education system to join us and help put this plan where it belongs - in the bin.