Question whether Hastings school’s governors should resign raised by Labour councillors

Hands Off Castledown demonstration outside Castledown Primary School, Hastings. SUS-170125-162305001
Hands Off Castledown demonstration outside Castledown Primary School, Hastings. SUS-170125-162305001

Calling for the resignation of governors at the centre of a bid to turn a primary school into an academy has been raised as a possibility by Labour councillors.

Angry parents have launched ‘Hands off Castledown!’, a campaign to fight Ark Academy Trust’s plans to take over Castledown School.

A petition signed by more than 1,000 people was presented to East Sussex County Council chairman Michael Ensor last Tuesday (February 7).

During the meeting, Tania Charman (Lab, Hastings - Old Hastings and Tressell) said it was the same governors who had turned a successful school into a ‘struggling school’ over the last three or four years.

She said: “Should we call for all governors to resign and find governors who can turn this school around and have the skills to manage a better outcome, and could the lead member get involved to ensure that it’s not a consultation and parents’ voices will be truly heard in regards to academisation?”

Nick Bennett, lead member for education and inclusion, special educational needs and disability, replied: “I think we have to be clear about the ever-changing role of local authorities in the relationships with schools, the decisions that councillors are referring to are very much those for school governors but I can give some reassurance our education services is sitting beside this keeping a very close eye on developments as they emerge because our primary concern of course is not so much about the school itself but about the education of the children per se.”

Cllr Charman added: “Does that mean that democracy in schools is long forgotten and dead?”

Cllr Bennett replied: “I’m not quite sure what the relationship between democracy and school governorship are, but I mean the governors are elected so I suppose they is some element of it.”

Ark Academy Trust currently runs Blacklands Primary Academy, Helenswood Academy, Little Ridge Primary Academy, and William Parker Academy.

Governors have uploaded an 11-page freqently asked questions document on the academisation bid on their website.

A statement from Castledown’s governors said: “Our school needs extensive support to bring about the long-lasting changes that we urgently need to improve the education for all our children. We worked with the local authority to review options for the school and agreed that pursuing academy status, as part of the Ark network, was our best option for real sustainable success. We are currently giving parents, staff and other local stakeholders the opportunity to put forward their views as part of this consultation, which will be submitted as a report to the Regional Schools Commissioner.”

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