Forced conversion likely for primary at forefront of academies row

10th February 2012 at 00:00
Sources suggest updated Downhills report won't show sufficient progress

A primary school at the centre of a clash over forced academy status is expected to be told next week that it has failed to make sufficient progress and will face conversion, TES understands.

Downhills Primary in Haringey, London, threatened legal action against the Department for Education earlier this year after being told that it had to become an academy because it was "underperforming".

Ministers agreed to suspend their plans for converting the school - which would involve removing the governing body and appointing a sponsor - until an Ofsted inspection could be carried out to give an up-to-date judgement.

It is understood that the report will fail to show sufficient progress to stop the government's plans. A source close to developments said that the verdict would pave the way for the conversion to go ahead.

The move to convert the school has been met with strong local opposition, including a vocal "Save Downhills" campaign, which argued that the school's results were on an upward trajectory.

The school had been given a notice to improve by Ofsted in January 2011, but a later monitoring visit in September 2011 found that it was making satisfactory progress in addressing issues for improvement and in raising pupil achievement.

The school's Sats results have also risen from 40 per cent achieving level 4 in both English and maths in 2009 to 61 per cent in 2011. Despite this, Downhills' governors were told in December that the education secretary was inclined to turn the school into an academy with a sponsor.

Christine Blower, general secretary of teaching union the NUT, and David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham and a former pupil at the school, both spoke out against the moves in a public meeting at the school.

Lawyers for the campaign argued that it was wrong for Mr Gove to rely on an Ofsted judgement that was almost a year old. This prompted the education secretary to issue a statement saying that "given the importance placed on a further Ofsted inspection by the governors at Downhills", he had asked for an inspection to take place.

The battle for the school's future has provoked strong debate. Mr Gove further angered campaigners last week by referring to them as "Trots" while giving evidence to the Commons education select committee.

The headteacher and governing body of Downhills did not want to comment on the forthcoming Ofsted report.

A spokeswoman for Haringey Council said that the school would get to comment on a draft of the report before publication. "We can't pre-empt the publication of the report," she added.

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