Highfields governors delay decision on academy conversion as campaigners call for post-lockdown meeting

Governors of Highfields School have again delayed any move to break away from Derbyshire County Council to join a chain of academies based in Nottinghamshire.

Tuesday, 30th March 2021, 10:07 pm

At a meeting on Thursday, March 25, governors agreed to keep the process on hold until at least April 29, when they next gather, rather than proceed immediately to a formal consultation.

Headteacher Andrew Marsh said: “We will be writing to all parents and carers to let them know the move is still paused due to current circumstances with Covid .

“Governors are very keen to have a quality, transparent debate , and for all stakeholders to come together to evaluate the facts.”

Hands Off Highfields campaigners outside the school in 2020.

He added: “It would be ideal to have some face-to-face meetings but we are not able to second guess how the Government road map develops.”

School parents and community residents held their own online meeting on Monday, March 29.

Speakers including Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), raised concerns about the irreversible implications of becoming an academy for the school’s finances, staffing, governance, and impact on student attainment.

Local contributors questioned the way the process has been handled so far, and speculated about the future of school land once it is no longer in public ownership.

A feasibility study conducted around 2017 rejected any possibility of consolidating the school on to a single site at Lumsdale.

Parent Helen Cunningham, part of the Hands Off Highfields campaign, said: “We’re calling for the process to be halted until a face-to-face meeting can be held safely, with the public invited to ask questions. Not everyone is against it, but most people want to find out more, and it’s hard to do that remotely.”

The NEU reports an overwhelming majority of Highfields members are concerned about the proposal and upset it is being pushed during lockdown with no opportunity for discussion.

Senior regional officer Nick Raine said: “It’s in the best interests of the school to stay with the local authority. The working environment and the school community is special and this could be lost with academisation.”

School leaders have set out their case for the proposal at https://bit.ly/398gl0a.

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