Downhills academy decision ‘rides roughshod’ over Tottenham community

15:45 21 June 2012

Education secretary Michael Gove has been accused of using Tottenham schoolchildren as

Education secretary Michael Gove has been accused of using Tottenham schoolchildren as 'Guinea pigs'.

PA Archive/Press Association Images

Frustrated disbelief has met the news that Downhills primary school is to be forcibly converted into an academy from September, under the wing of sponsor the Harris Federation.

Last night the school’s interim executive board (IEB), put in place by education secretary Michael Gove in March, resolved to press ahead with conversion to academy status in a 20-page report - ignoring the wishes of 94 per cent of those who responded to its consultation.

David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, said he was “surprised” by the decision, and school leaders now face the task of bringing round an “alienated” community.

A spokeswoman for Save Downhills, which has run a vociferous campaign to keep the school under local authority control despite poor Ofsted reports, said: “We are outraged that the secretary of state has ridden roughshod over the wishes of the local community.”

School parent Elsa Dechaux said: “Why did Michael Gove waste everybody’s time and over £45,000 of public money consulting us and then engineer the results? This government talks about parent choice, localism and the ‘big society’, but our voice has been ignored.

“They wanted to privatise Downhills from the start and now our community’s school has been handed on a plate to Lord Harris.”

Former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen, who joined parents and staff on a strike protesting against enforced academy conversion, told the Journal today: “It’s the act of someone using the powers given to him by democracy to behave like a dictator.”

Mr Lammy said: “This is a surprising decision given the weight of opinion against becoming an academy.

“The interests of the Downhills pupils are paramount. I will be looking closely at the Harris Academy leadership to make sure that they never forget that.

“I will also be seeking assurances from them about how they intend to re-engage with the staff, parents and vibrant community that surrounds the school that has been so alienated by the actions of the Department for Education over the last six months.”

Bruce Grove councillor Joseph Ejiofor was heavily critical of the move, branding the decision “hypocrisy and an outrageous abuse of power”.

He added: “Gove talks about consultation, but this decision ignores parents’ wishes, and is part of the Tories’ ideological drive to privatise the provision of public services.

“We have seen what they are doing to the health service, what they are planning to do privatising parts of the police service; Gove is using Tottenham children as Guinea pigs to trial their plans to privatise education provision.

“Nobody is making excuses for poor performance, but there is no evidence that forcing a school to become an academy will improve its performance, especially when two per cent of its budget can be creamed off by the sponsor for ‘administration’.”

Many parents in his ward have children attending the school in Philip Lane and have lobbied him hard, he said.

“[They] love the school and care passionately about their children’s education, but they want to retain democratic accountability and a meaningful stake in running the school.

“This decision will finally break the link between the school and the local community, since it is now clear that any consultation or engagement with the local community will be meaningless.”

A Haringey Council spokesperson said: “We will continue to work closely with Downhills and with all our schools, whether they are judged as being good or outstanding or if they’re on a journey of improvement.

“We’ve consistently said becoming an academy should be ultimately a decision for schools following proper consultation with parents who need to be convinced it is the right solution and not simply told it is.”

Sign up for our news alerts today!

Our editors' picks for the day's top news delivered to your inbox or phone.

Sign up for email alerts Sign up for mobile alerts
1
2 3 4 5 6
7

Latest London politics news

Wednesday, May 27, 2015
The capital saw a protest two weeks ago after the Tories were elected (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)

As the Queen’s Speech marks the official formation of the Conservative government, anti-austerity protesters are planning to hold a demonstration in Trafalgar Square at 5pm this evening.

Monday, May 25, 2015
As TfL are taking over the London Liverpool Street to Shenfield line, it will now appear on the Tube map.

Train services from Shenfield to London Liverpool Street will be run by TfL from May 31.

Monday, May 18, 2015
Your future Mayor? [Image from YouTube]

Conservative candidate for Mayor of London, Ivan Massow, has transformed himself into a cartoon character in order to get the top job.

Sunday, May 10, 2015
Protestors are surrounded by police (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)

All but one of 15 people arrested during a spontaneous anti-austerity protest against the new Tory government have been bailed, police said today.

Friday, May 8, 2015
Voters in Hampstead voted for Ronnie Carroll, who is dead (PA)

A total of 113 people voted for a parliamentary candidate who died four weeks before the election.

Friday, May 8, 2015
Ed Balls has lost his seat (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

Ed Balls became the highest-profile casualty of a disastrous General Election performance for Labour, losing his seat to the Conservatives in a shock result. Twitter reacted to his demise...

What is this?

Near You Now

Don't Miss...

Competitions

Time to expand with the LeefiBRIDGE.

More iOS memory in a flash: Introducing Leef iBRIDGE.

Read more
The sell out 2014 event 32 Londoners, returns to the Coca-Cola London Eye!

The Coca-Cola London Eye is proud to announce that 32 Londoners will be returning this June, following last year’s sell out event. The event will feature 32 talks, in each of the London Eye’s 32 capsules on 32 extraordinary Londoners.

Read more
You could take in stunning views of London over brunch at the Sky Garden

Celebrate lighter, brighter days with the chance of winning an indulgent brunch for two with a bottle of bubbles at Darwin, the cool and casual brasserie 36 floors up at Sky Garden.

Read more