Big majority of parents vote against academy plan for Hove Park School

Mark Steel, comedian and journalist, was compere at a protest rally
Mark Steel, comedian and journalist, was compere at a protest rally

An overwhelming majority of parents of students at Hove Park School have voted against it becoming an academy.

An overwhelming majority of parents of students at Hove Park School have voted against it becoming an academy.

More than seven in 10 (71%) voted against the move in a non-binding, council-run ballot.

Last month, Green councillors proposed the ballot of parents after the school opted not to consult them.

The ballot results found 387 of the 544 respondents were opposed to academy status, which removes schools from democratic accountability. The council sent out 1,528 ballot papers and received 544 responses – a return rate of 35.6%.

Previously, more than 90% of staff - who are on strike today (Wednesday) - opposed the academy proposals.

Natasha Steel, a parent at Hove Park School and spokesperson for Hands Off Hove Park School, said, “The council’s ballot of parents shows just how strong local feeling is against academy conversion.

"This combines with over 90% of teachers and support staff who are against the plan and the motion passed by Brighton and Hove City Council to say it is against academies in principle. It is hard to see how the governors can go ahead with such an unpopular decision in the face of such strong and universal opposition."

Councillor Sue Shanks, lead member for children’s services, said: “I’m delighted that my proposal for a parental ballot was agreed. Parents’ clear views show how important this issue is to so many at the school, and I strongly urge the school’s governors to take this into account when they make their decision on academy status.”

School governors will decide whether or not to press ahead with an application to become an academy in September.

In a carefully-worded statement, a city council spokesperson said: "Our children and young people committee on June 2 resolved to conduct a ballot of Hove Park parents with regards to their proposal to move towards academy status.

"The question put to parents was as follows: 'Do you agree that Hove Park Secondary School should convert to become an Academy – Yes or No'.

"The count has taken place today (Tuesday, July 15). A total of 1,528 ballot papers were sent out, and 544 responses were received – a return rate of 35.6%. The results were as follows: Yes to becoming an academy: 156; No to becoming an academy: 387. (One ballot paper was rejected).

"We have passed the results of the ballot on to Hove Park School. The decision on whether a school should convert to become an academy is a matter for the school’s governors, not the council."

Councillor Andrew Wealls, Conservative Group spokesperson, thanked parents and carers who voted in the ballot.

He said: “It is great that so many of them care passionately about the future direction of Hove Park School.

"The ballot will feed into the wider ongoing consultation and will form part of the information that the headteacher and governors will need to digest in order to come to a final decision.

"The Conservative Group remains strongly supportive of the headteacher and the governors, who have done a fantastic job of turning the school around in the last couple of years. We have complete trust in their ability to make whichever decision they feel is in the best interests of the pupils attending the school and will back them all the way.”

In advance of the strike by teachers today (Wednesday), Derek Trimmer, headteacher of Hove Park School,  wrote to parents: “It is with regret that I have decided to declare that the school will be closed to students on Wednesday 16 July.

“Despite a minority of the school staff voting to take industrial action on Wednesday, two factors have placed further pressure on the school’s ability to remain open to students.

“The first is that while we have sought to identify how many staff are likely to participate in the strike action, staff are not obliged to inform the school and, therefore, it has been impossible to ascertain the levels of staff likely to be in school and we will only know on the day.

“The second is that pickets will most likely be placed at entrances to the school from 7am on Wednesday morning.

“This puts staff who do not wish to strike in a difficult personal position of having to decide whether to cross a picket line.

“We also believe it is likely that people from a wider group than the immediate school community are likely to be drawn to the vicinity of the school gates.

“Given the factors above, I cannot, on this occasion, open the school to students in the knowledge that we can provide a secure, safe environment for all of our students on this day.

“The school will be open to staff.”

A ballot for three parent governors is due to close today (Wednesday) at 3pm, with the results expected later in the day.