Tower Hamlets schools to become academies despite protest

Stepney Green Maths and Computing College has applied for ‘academy’ status Pic: Jamie Barras – Flickr

Two Tower Hamlets state schools will become academies despite efforts from local parents and campaigners to block the handover.

A delegation meeting called by the Anti-Academies Alliance last week failed to persuade the council’s cabinet to stop Stepney Green Maths and Computing College and Clara Grant Primary in Bromley-by-Bow from transitioning to academies next month.

Both schools applied to the government for “academy” status which will give them direct Whitehall funding and take them out of local authority control.

Kehinde Akintunde, of the GMB union said: “What we see across academies more and more is them getting rid of support staff. This affects children’s education. We are fundamentally opposed to a two-tier system. We need to bring the local community together.”

Mayor John Biggs told the delegation that by law, the council must had over the 125-year leases the schools applied for.

“We don’t have the legal powers to stop schools becoming academies,” Biggs said.

“We’d simply get a letter from the government if we refused the leases saying we’ve got to hand over the properties to the school governors.”

He added that the government took away control of this process from local authorities.

The Alliance held a protest outside Stepney Green last month to demand more public consultation on the academy transition and held a meeting to discuss the “threat” to schools rejecting local authority control.

Shahanur Khan, former Stepney Green School Governor, told the cabinet: “The school hasn’t done the consultation properly. The parents can’t be ignored and excluded from the decision.”
Biggs said the council can’t force a school “to consult properly”.

Tower Hamlets is one of the most successful education authorities in the country and has dramatically improved its school standards, despite having East London’s highest number of children living in poverty.

In 1998, just 26 per cent of students gained five or more higher grade GCSEs compared to the national average of 43 per cent.
By 2011, 61 per cent of Tower Hamlets pupils achieved five or more A*-C marks, exceeding the national average, and in 2013, over 90 percent of primaries were rated ‘Outstanding’ or ‘Good’ by Ofsted.

Amin Hoque, a parent from Clara Grant, said a governor of the primary told him “the reason for becoming an academy was to prevent it being taken over by a big chain if it failed Ofsted”.

“The school is rated ‘Good’ – surely if there is a problem in the school the leadership should change not the school structure,” Hoque added.

The East London Teacher’s Association said academies will hurt education standards in deprived boroughs.

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