A Conservative councillor in Croydon has made an extraordinary attack against Michael Gove over the way in which the Tory-led government’s education secretary and his department is steamrolling through the transfer of a local primary school.
In a rare, if welcome, break in party discipline, Councillor Steve Hollands describes Gove and the Whitehall department’s conduct as “woeful”.
Hollands is the councillor for Kenley ward in the south of the borough, where Roke Primary has been told that it is to be made into an academy run by the Harris Federation, an organisation run by one of the Conservative party’s leading donors.
In an email sent to a resident this week, and seen by Inside Croydon, Hollands sounds frustrated that Croydon, as the local education authority, has been entirely bypassed by Gove’s Whitehall department, with plans to work with Riddlesdown, a local secondary school, discounted.
In an unusual display of outspokenness, Hollands wrote: “The DfE haven’t taken any notice of the views of the LEA, Riddlesdown or Roke when the Secretary of State made the decision with regard to Harris. The work undertaken to improve the school by the LEA, Roke leadership team and Riddlesdown appears to have been ignored.
“From a local democracy perspective the [Secretary of State] has not acted in an open and transparent way and has not given the reasons for his view.”
Roke was neither a “failing” school nor under special measures, the levels of under-performance which usually lead to a school being taken over by outsiders. Indeed, as recently as 2010, Roke Primary was rated as “outstanding” by the Ofsted inspectors.
But last summer a further inspection put the school on a notice to improve. This report is a matter of some dispute, with the school claiming that not all the paperwork on the school’s work had been properly submitted.
But as a result of that sole Ofsted inspection report, the Gove’s DfE ordered that Roke should be turned over to Harris.
Hollands goes on to write: “We can’t ignore that the standards of education at Roke have declined over the last few years and this is why the school is now in it’s current predicament. However, the way in which the DfE has undertaken the transfer and the lack of consultation with everyone from parents to the LEA is woeful.
“Roke has a long and largly successful history that has ‘turned out’ a lot of really good students. This isn’t the way in which the school should have ended it’s current existence.”
- Inside Croydon: For comment and analysis about Croydon, from inside Croydon – 142,300 unique page views, Nov 2012-Jan 2013
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- Parents vent fury after Croydon school is absorbed by academy chain (guardian.co.uk)
- School objects to ‘dictatorial’ instruction to become an academy (schoolsimprovement.net)
- Cash for academies: Michael Gove ‘bribes’ schools to change their status (schoolsimprovement.net)