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Council challenges Education Secretary over "forced" academy conversion

A local authority has launched a legal challenge over the Education Secretary’s decision to direct it to issue a primary school with a warning notice.

Coventry City Council believes that Michael Gove’s move would result in the Governing Body of Henley Green Primary School starting a process that would lead to the school becoming an academy.

In a statement, the local authority said: “The Secretary of State believes that this will improve the school more quickly than the arrangements that are currently in place.

“Coventry City Council does not agree with this approach and is challenging the legality of the Secretary of State’s action in trying to force the school to become an academy.”  

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The council said it was opposed to what it saw as Government proposals to force some schools to become academies “because this is damaging to the local partnerships of schools and it is not proven that this is the best approach to help schools improve”.

Cllr David Kershaw, Cabinet Member for Education, insisted that the school was working in partnership with the council and other city schools to improve the standards and quality of education.

He added: “The school should be given the opportunity to continue its journey of improvement.”

The school's Governing Board also said in a statement: “We believe there is good evidence to show that the school is making sustained and significant improvements working in partnership with the local authority and other schools.

“We believe that this progress can best be developed and built upon by sustaining and enhancing this relationship. In respect of all issues relating to D.F.E.E. these matters are being dealt with by the local authority.”

The Department for Education said it would consider the legal challenge and respond in due course.

It added: "Henley Green Primary's results have been on a downward trend since 2009 and the number of pupils making expected progress is well below the national average.

"We are very concerned the school is failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education. Ofsted has also raised concerns.”

The DfE said it thought that the support and external challenge of an academy sponsor was the best way to improve schools that were consistently underperforming.

"We would, therefore, like the school to begin the process which could lead to it becoming an academy,” it said.

Philip Hoult

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