Parents have been celebrating today after controversial plans to turn a Sussex school into an academy were dramatically thrown out. The headteacher of Hove Park had been the driving force behind conversion But late in the day he advised governors to vote against the plan, to avoid what he called "unrest and disruption" at the secondary school. Malcolm Shaw has our report.
There's been a dramatic about-turn tonight by a Head Teacher who had, until now, told staff and pupils that their school should become an Academy.
Derek Trimmer released a statement ahead of a crunch vote this evening - which will consider the future of Hove Park in Sussex. He HAD said that an Academy, independent of local authority control, could bring better exam results. But, many parents, as many as seven out of ten, have been opposing change. Christine Alsford looks at the background.
A secondary school in Sussex that was hoping to become an academy has performed a dramatic U-Turn hours ahead of a crucial vote tonight.
The head teacher at Hove Park secondary school and sixth form is now urging governors to vote against a proposal to convert the school.
It comes after a fierce five month campaign of opposition by parents and campaigners who want it to remain under local authority control.
A statement issued by Hove Park head teacher Derek Trimmer - this afternoon says:
"I believe that with the level of uncertainty that exists amongst members of our community and the resulting level of opposition that may harm the progress of the children in our school, the time is not right for driving through such a change.
"Therefore I will be recommending to governors to vote against the proposed academy status and to support us in delivering our vision through continued partnership and willingness to consider a future where a family of schools could work together to benefit all the children of our community."
The meeting of governors tonight will decide whether or not to convert the school and follows months of opposition from parents and campaigners.
The Hands off Hove Park campaign have held protests, marches, held public meetings and even composed songs to voice their anger. They say academy status will make the school less accountable and fear it will be run more like a business.
In a ballot of 600 parents, more than 70 per cent voted against conversion.
And even some of the 1,700 pupils voiced their opposition with a demonstration on the school fields.
In some other parts of the region, three quarters of secondary schools have already become academies receiving extra freedoms and more control over their own budgets, timetabling and curriculum.
But Brighton and Hove has only three secondary schools that have been turned into academies because of poor performance - and high performing Hove Park would be the first to convert to academy status out of choice.
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.
In some counties, the percentage of academies is more than 50 per cent. How does this affect schools still run by local authorities?Read the full story ›
Our education correspondent Christine Alsford looks at the details behind the rise in the number of academies.Read the full story ›
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.”
The Education Secretary Michael Gove spoke exclusively to our Social Affairs Correspondent Christine Alsford about academies. The Government's academy programme initially targeted successful schools - but now those failing to meet government targets are often becoming academies too.
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.
Across the country, more than 200 struggling schools are becoming academies. But are there any new academies coming to your area?Read the full story ›