Fury at imposition of academy sponsor for Moulsecoomb school

Plans to convert the school to an academy have been strongly opposed
Plans to convert the school to an academy have been strongly opposed

The decision to impose an academy sponsor for Moulsecoomb Primary School has caused anger.

The Government’s Regional Schools Commissioner has told the school’s governors and Brighton and Hove City Council that the New Horizons Academy Trust (NHAT) has been selected.

Parents, unions and the council have all expressed anger and disappointment at the decision.

In a recent ballot, 96 per cent of parents and carers who took part said they were against their school becoming an academy.

Kate Knight is vice chair of the council’s children, young people and skills committee, and also represents Moulsecoomb as a ward councillor.

She said: “I am furious, but not surprised, that the government is ignoring the wishes of the school’s parents, governors and dedicated staff in such a blatant way.

“They have decided to push ahead with their academy plan in the face of overwhelming cross-party local opposition.

“The result of our ballot couldn’t have been clearer – local people want their school to stay locally and democratically accountable.

“We have specific concerns about the academy trust the commissioner has chosen.

“NHAT has no track record of positive whole school improvement on this scale – quite the reverse, in fact.

“It has had two converter academies, one of which was later handed over, by the Regional Schools Commissioner, to another academy chain due to concerns about the management of the school.

“In fact, the sponsor’s track record within their one remaining school only appears to deliver average outcomes.

“Staff at the school have been working hard and successfully to improve performance at the school.

“Their Key Stage 2 results this summer in reading / writing / maths combined have gone up by nearly 30 percentage points compared to last year, and are the best in four years.

“I feel desperately sad for these staff, after all the excellent work they’ve put in to turn the school round. This is a real slap in the face for them.”

Meanwhile parent campaigner Ulrike Hofmann said: “We are shocked to find out that the academy trust that has been chosen to take over our school has a track record like this and will be given the responsibility of looking after our children’s education.”

She added: “Parents are extremely concerned and worried about decisions that are being made behind the scenes without any consultation of the community. I know several parents that have already stated they will take their children out of the school if this goes ahead. “Our campaign group will be asking the trustees and members of NHAT to meet us urgently to discuss our concerns. More than ever we are determined to stop the privatisation of our community school.”

Craig Arden, National Education Union regional officer, added: “It appears that the main priority for the Regional Schools Commissioner in selecting NHAT to take over Moulsecoomb Primary is to prop up an unsustainable academy model and secure the trust’s financial viability.

“This is completely wrong and any decision that is made should be purely on the basis that it is in the best interests of Moulsecoomb Primary School and nothing else. There is absolutely no way that a trust with one school can provide better support than Brighton & Hove City Council which has 57.”

Members of the NEU, UNISON and GMB unions working at the school share the concerns of parents regarding the implications of the school being forced to join an academy trust and are currently being balloted for strike action.

Paul Shellard, NEU Brighton & Hove secretary, said: “Everyone connected to Moulsecoomb Primary School is united in supporting the school as it continues on its journey of school improvement within the local authority.

“Parents, staff and the council do not want an academy trust with no connection to Brighton & Hove or Moulsecoomb, and little experience of running schools, to disrupt this progress.”