Roke Primary in Kenley, South Croydon, faced a sudden Ofsted inspection on Wednesday 16, just 24 hours after launching a parent-led campaign against a planned academy takeover of the school.
The Department of Education has ordered the school to become part of the Harris Federation, a private, not-for-profit organisation with charitable status, in response to an Ofsted report from 2012, which stated the school’s standards had slipped since the 2011 inspection.
However the Department of Education official directions say poorly performing primaries should only be obliged to become sponsored academies: “When a school has been underperforming for some time and if the problems are not being tackled”.
Parent Angeline Hind said: “Thanks to the hard work of the Governors and staff things turned around rapidly immediately after the last report. We hope that Ofsted will recognise, like most of the parents do, that our school just had a blip in performance’.
Caroline Phillips, Headteacher at the school said: “Roke is a happy, caring community of children and adults striving for excellence and celebrating diversity.”
Maria Gunner whose children attend Roke Primary said: “We seem to have caught the government on the back foot, as it does not seem coincidental that Ofsted are coming in less than 24 hours after we launched our campaign against forced academy takeover of our school”.
She added: “We really hope that this is not a rubber-stamping exercise to force the academy through in spite of the negative publicity.”
Nigel Geary-Andrews, another parent, told ELL: “Parents are always the first to know when a school has changed, we have certainly picked up on improvements on the ground and will be really surprised if Ofsted do not pick this up too.
“We hope that this will lead to a DfE rethink on forcing our excellent school to become an academy.”
The school released a newsletter to parents stating: “We understand that many parents have concerns regarding the proposed academy sponsorship.”
Many parent support the school becoming part of the Riddlesdown Collegiate, a secondary school for which Roke is currently a ‘Feeder School’ to. Gordon H Smith, principle of Riddlesdown has released a statement stating: “I know that in the next few weeks Harris will want to come to consult with parents and I am sure your concerns will be addressed at this time.”
Academies started under Labour but have grown in number under the current coalition. Supporters of academies claim that they bring schools closer to local communities by freeing them from local authority control.
However, critics believe big academy chains can be even more distant, a point reiterated in a major independent report by the Academies Commission last week.
A DfE spokesman said: “Harris is one of our best academy sponsors with an exceptional primary team. They have extensive experience of turning around previously under-performing schools in London, nine of which have now been judged as outstanding by Ofsted.”
Harris currently runs three secondary schools in Croydon and 20 schools across south London.
It may be February before a decision is reached on the future status of the school.
This article was amended at 13:05 on 18 January, it had previously incorrectly stated that Gordon H Smith is principle of Roke Primary.