The report of the ‘consultation’ over the forced academisation of Dorothy Barley Junior School was published on 7 February 2014. It shows that parents, staff, community members and the local MP Margaret Hodge, are overwhelmingly against removal of the school from democratically accountable local authority oversight. Despite this, the same day, Lord Nash, Minister for Schools, informed staff that the school would be forced to become an academy ‘on 1 April or as soon as possible thereafter’, sponsored by the REAch2 Trust.
The report states that:
· Stakeholders submitted 170 completed consultation questionnaires during the consultation period.
· 84% of respondents (143) stated they were not in favour of the school becoming an academy (Question 1).
· On the question of whether REAch2 should become the sponsor if the school were to convert to an academy (Question 2), only 15% of respondents (25) stated that they supported REAch2 becoming the sponsor should Dorothy Barley Junior School become an academy.
· At the public consultation events the majority of attendees expressed a negative response to the proposals.
· Margaret Hodge, MP for Barking and Dagenham also provided her views verbally at the meeting held with the Chair of the IEB and two DfE representatives. She reiterated her position that she was not in favour of REAch2 as the proposed Academy Trust sponsor and for this reason she could not support the school becoming an Academy.
Dominic Byrne, Barking & Dagenham NUT Division Secretary and National Executive member for Outer London said:
“The fact that the Department for Education has ignored the overwhelming opposition to academy conversion highlighted by the report confirms our concerns that the consultation process was a sham from the start. It shows that the academy programme has nothing to do with parental ‘choice’ and everything to do with the ideological preferences of the Government for schools to operate like businesses. As the Judge said in a recent Judicial Review hearing that has successfully challenged the Academy Order imposed by the DfE on another local school, the Warren Comprehensive: ‘This is an extraordinary piece of legislation. The Secretary of State has wide powers to make an IEB (Interim Executive Board) and AO (Academy Order) and thereafter consult. On the face of it that is crazy. How can he be impartial by consulting thereafter?’. Barking & Dagenham NUT will continue to work with the local community and local council to defend our locally accountable community schools.”
Justice Collins, the Judge who granted an injunction on 8 January to stop the Interim Executive Board and Academy Order imposed by the Secretary of State on Warren Comprehensive, said in his ruling:
“This is an extraordinary piece of legislation. The Secretary of State has wide powers to make an IEB (Interim Executive Board) and AO (Academy Order) and thereafter consult. On the face of it that is crazy. How can he be impartial by consulting thereafter?”
“It seems from reports that the present Secretary of State thinks academies are the cats whiskers – we know of course some of them are not.”