Underperforming school may become academy

Posted: 4th September 2012

Commercial premisesCampaigners have failed in a High Court bid to stop an underperforming primary school being turned into an academy.

Parents of pupils at Downhills primary school, in Tottenham, north London, had accused Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, of ‘bullying’ and ‘riding roughshod’ over their wishes.

They asked Mr Justice Kenneth Parker for permission to seek judicial review of Mr Gove's decision to convert the school into an academy sponsored by the Harris Federation, an education charity, at the start of the next school term in September.

The ‘Save Downhills’ campaign group argued that the school was now thriving and improving, that the consultation process leading up to the decision was flawed and that the Secretary of State had acted in breach of his statutory duty.

Refusing permission, however, the judge said it was plain from his decision letter that the Secretary of State ‘simply had no confidence’ that the school would substantially improve if it remained under the aegis of Haringey Council.

In the light of the school's ‘egregious’ performance over a period of several years, the judge said Mr Gove’s view that the transformation into an academy would improve the school’s performance was rational.

The school had been placed in special measures following an Ofsted report. Its head teacher resigned, the board of governors was dismissed and an interim executive board took over running the school whilst its future was decided.

A Department for Education spokesperson said after the judge’s decision: ‘We are very pleased that the court has recognised that the consultation and the Secretary of State's decision were undertaken fairly and lawfully. Downhills had been underperforming for several years.

‘The new Academy will open in September and will be sponsored by Harris, a not-for profit educational charity, which has already turned around a number of previously failing schools in London, nine of which have now been judged by Ofsted as outstanding.’