Anti-academy Downhills Primary School campaigners could launch judicial review

CAMPAIGNERS trying to stop a Tottenham school becoming the first in the country to be forced into converting to an academy could launch a judicial review against the plan.

Officials from the Department for Education visited Downhills Primary School in Philip Lane last week to tell governors that they must commit to becoming an academy by January 12 and or ministers will remove the board and take over by the end of the month.

The move would make Downhills the first school in the country to be forced into becoming an academy, under Education Secretary Michael Gove's strategy to close down under-performing schools and reopen them free of local authority control.

Now governors are set to send a 'letter before action' to Mr Gove, warning him that if he presses ahead with the plan without consultation, they will seek a judicial review of the legal basis of his decision.

Tottenham MP David Lammy, who went to the school as a child, said that the Government would be “throwing away 125 years of history in a few short weeks”.

He added: “The Department for Education wants to press ahead with turning Downhills into an academy whether they like it or not.

“But I will resist it every step of the way, and I will be raising a debate on this in Parliament as soon as I can.”

Mr Lammy has written to Mr Gove and launched a petition which he plans to present to the House of Commons before the Government's deadline to the governors next month.

The school was handed a 'notice to improve' by Ofsted investigators earlier this year, but was meant to be given 12 months to make standards better.

The Haringey Independent understands three other schools – Nightingale Primary School, Noel Park Primary School and Coleraine Park Primary School – have also been warned they could face conversion.

Julie Davis, branch secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said that Mr Gove “had no idea what was going on in Tottenham”.

She added: “Teachers at the school do not want it to become an academy – Downhills is a successful school with a long history of serving its community well.”

Academies are independent, state-funded schools, which receive their funding directly from central government, rather than through local councils.

They have more freedom than other state schools over their finances, curriculum, length of terms and school days and do not need to follow national pay and conditions for teachers.

Academies were originally a Labour policy designed to improve struggling schools, primarily in deprived areas, but the policy has been expanded by the coalition Government.

To download and sign Mr Lammy's petition, click here. Because of Parliament rules, the petition cannot be signed online and must be posted.

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