Primary school fighting government academy plan

Chapel Primary School
Chapel Primary School

Parents, staff and governors are fighting moves to force Chapel-en-le-Frith Primary School to become an academy.

The school was placed in special measures after an Ofsted inspection rated it as inadequate, but responded immediately by putting an action plan in place to tackle the areas of concern.

However, Lord Nash, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Schools, has now written to headteacher Trevor Smith outlining his intention to remove the school from local authority control and place it under the governance of the Diocese of Derbyshire.

His letter said: “We are concerned that it appears that there is no sustainable solution in place at Chapel-en-le-Frith Primary School which will deliver the significant improvements the school requires.”

However, Mr Smith said he believed the school hadn’t been given enough time to show it was improving.

“The timescales have been so tight,” he said. “It was only two weeks ago that we got the letter from the Department for Education and within that two weeks we had to respond giving our views on what is right for the school.

“It’s been such a short period of time since the Ofsted report was published that they haven’t given us enough time to prove ourselves. I feel that if they are going to consider this, they should give us another six or nine months. To do it now seems a little unfair.

“We’ve only had one visit from Her Majesty’s Inspectors and they said we were doing fine and were on course.

“Our projected results at the end of the year look to be the best the school has ever had so we’re obviously doing something right.

“Staff are very anxious about becoming an academy and what will happen to their jobs.”

He added: “If we do become an academy, we’ll become a church school academy and be run like a voluntary aided school. The difficulty the governors and I have is because we’re the only school in town, parents will have no choice.

“There will be daily collective worship and daily prayer. For some parents that might be good but some parents might not want that. For them to not have that choice we don’t think is right.”

A parents meeting was held at the school on Monday night with another being planned for after Easter, attended by representatives of the diocese and Derbyshire County Council. A petition has also been started, already attracting hundreds of signatures.