Consultation on future of school comes to an end

Tidemill parents collect signatures for a petition against the proposed academy status. Photo: Leila Galloway

A community consultation into whether the Deptford school which is home to the countrys’ highest paid teacher should be granted academy status ends on Monday.

Head teacher Mark Elms is leading the proposal for academy status, which would free  Tidemill School from local authority control and enable it to set its own wages.

Some parents have opposed the plan. Leila Galloway, a mother of two pupils at Tidemill’s, is leading the ‘Deptford Says No’ Campaign in resistance to the changes.

Ms Galloway believes that decisions about the school’s future have not been made democratically.

“This consultation is a bit of a joke,” she said, citing that many parents at Tidemill do not speak English and have been left uninformed about the implications of becoming an academy. The ‘Deptford Says No’ campaign has translated the proposal documents into twelve different languages to overcome this problem.

The results of the consultation will be taken into consideration by the full board of governors in December, when the final decision will be made.

Tidemill School was unavailable for comment on Tuesday. Mr Elms, who was criticised for being paid more than £240,000 last year, has previously said that becoming an academy will enable the school to be more flexible and will help its high number of pupils whose first language is not English.

But Ms Galloway argues that changes at Tidemill are unnecessary, with the school already qualified as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted. She suggested that the potential profits available to academies from private sponsorship may be motivating the scheme.

“No matter what promises they are making now, the school would be run by the sponsors,” she said.

Lewisham National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Anti-Academies Alliance support the ‘No’ campaign. Pete Jackson from the Anti-Academies Alliance insisted that academies are “a disaster for education.”

“They produce competition between schools, meaning that best practice cannot be shared. Similar experiments in America and Sweden have produced mixed results,” he continued.

The new Academies Act encourages all publicly funded schools to apply for academy status. Another three schools in Lewisham may also become academies. Brindishe Primary School in Lee, Fairlawn Primary School in Forest Hill and Grinling Gibbons Primary School, in Deptford, have all sought the new status.

A spokesperson for Lewisham Council said they were reserving comment until such time that a final proposal for the school is submitted.

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