All through with the imposition of academies

14th November 2008 at 00:00

I am not in the least surprised to read Ben Morris's experience of the prejudicial consultation process used to engineer a supposed 70 per cent Yes vote in respect of the academy proposal for Parkwood High in Sheffield (Letters, TES, November 7).

Moreover, a result that goes the wrong way seems to be no barrier to the imposition of an academy.

In Bolton, there is a proposal to close Top o' th' Brow Community Primary School and Withins Community Secondary School (the latter recently named one of the fastest-improving schools in the country) and replace them with an all-through Church of England academy covering ages 3-19.

The consultation process, which seems to be no more than a PR exercise, was orchestrated by a management consultant whose chief interest seemed to be to get an overwhelmingly dissenting public meeting to focus on the important matter of what logo the proposed academy should adopt.

Few were taken in. Consultation results showed opposition of 90 per cent in respect of Withins and 79 per cent in respect of Top o' th' Brow. The council and the Diocese of Manchester clearly think the community does not know what's good for it, and have decided to press on regardless.

The scheme has the added dimension of proposing the replacement of two community schools with a faith academy, leaving parents in the area with no practical alternative.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families document Faith in the System says: "The Government remains committed to supporting the establishment of new schools by a range of providers - including faith organisations - where local consultation has shown that this is what parents and the community want, and where this greater diversity will help to raise standards."

There is no evidence for the latter, and consultation has shown emphatically that this CE academy is not what local people want. Furthermore, a visit to the Church's website reveals its self-professed intent to extend its presence in schools for the purpose of evangelism. (See The Way Ahead: Church of England Schools in the New Millennium and other documents.)

Perhaps you could call schools minister Jim Knight and ask him whether this is now what schools are for. Meanwhile, we await belated evidence that Bolton council has not forgotten who elected it.

Mike Lim, Bolton.

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