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Growing controversy over school's academy status

Scores of parents in Sussex are opposed to their children's school being converted into an academy. Around 150 attended a public meeting where many backed taking direct action.

Among the options being considered - a "strike" where they keep children away from classes or sending pupils to school not wearing school uniform.

The head teacher and governors say they are just consulting on the move which would remove the 1500 pupil Hove Park School and Sixth Form from local authority control and give the school extra freedoms.

The case raises serious questions about whether the process of converting to an academy is robust enough if it can still go ahead amid strong opposition. Critics say there should definitely be a ballot of parents rather than just a vote of the governing body. Christine Alsford reports.


East Sussex County Council responds to Gove's school standards criticism

Education Secretary Michael Gove has criticised school standards in East Sussex and says more there need to be turned into academies. But East Sussex County Council says his comments are unfounded and have challenged him to meet them face-to-face. The local authority's statement is below.

“We continue to be puzzled by this inaccurate criticism of our attitude to academy status and are surprised the Secretary of State continues to make it. We would welcome the opportunity to give Mr Gove an up-to-date briefing in person so that he can understand the position in East Sussexbetter. Almost half of our secondary schools (11 out of 26) are now academies, and we are co-sponsors of three secondary academies in Hastings and Eastbourne.

Also, last year, together with the Department for Education, we brokered sponsors for four primary academies. In addition to this we have been in close dialogue with Govt officials, and a number of potential sponsors, about a number of under-performing schools and academy status. So it is simply not accurate for the Govt to suggest we are resistant to schools becoming academies.”

– Cllr Nick Bennett, Lead Member for Learning & School Effectiveness, East Sussex County Council

The academy effect

A year ago Heyworth Primary School in Hayward's Heath in West Sussex was ordered to become an academy. A local secondary school was brought in to help as a sponsor. A year on - exam results are up and applications for the school have increased by more than 30 per cent.

Our social affairs correspondent Christine Alsford went to visit. She spoke to Steve Davis, the headteacher of the newly named Warden Park Primary Academy, the chief executive of the sponsoring Warden Park Academy Trust, Steve Johnson - and the proud pupils.