Staff and parents protest at academy move

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STRIKING teachers and parents took part in a protest outside a school which is resisting academy status.

Downhills Primary School in Haringey, north London, which was placed in special measures earlier this year after failing an Ofsted inspection, was closed to pupils as all 20 teachers went on strike.

The teachers, who are all National Union of Teachers (NUT) members, were joined by up to 30 parents as they demonstrated over the proposal by the Department for Education (DfE) to force the establishment to become a sponsored academy.

The school is among 200 underperforming primaries nationally which the Government wants to turn into academies.

They are all schools where less than 60 per cent of pupils have reached the expected level for their age in English and maths tests in the five years up to 2010.

Parent Sarah Williams, 40, who has two sons at the school, said: “There is absolutely no evidence that a change in structure improves children’s educational outcomes.”

NUT London regional secretary Tim Harrison said: “The interests of Downhills School are best served by it continuing to be a local community school supported by governors from the area and maintained by the local authority.

“There is very little support for the Government’s intervention to seek to impose an unwanted sponsor and the school becoming an academy.”

The DfE has maintained that the school, which was also placed in special measures in 2002, has struggled to obtain the required standards for years.

Since the latest Ofsted inspection, which was carried out after the row over academy status began, the head teacher, Leslie Church, has resigned and a new interim governing body has been appointed by Ministers.

The school has claimed that Education Secretary Michael Gove is illegally attempting to force academy status on them and that attainment records and an interim Ofsted report last September suggested standards were improving. Downhills, which is more than 100 years old, last came out of special measures in 2005 but in January 2010 was told by Ofsted that “significant improvement” was needed.

A DfE spokeswoman said: “Downhills has been underperforming for several years. Most recently Ofsted found that it is failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education and that those responsible for leading, managing and governing the school are not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvement.

“That is why we have appointed an interim executive board to give the school the leadership and expertise it needs to improve.”