Academy row school governors sacked by Michael Gove

By Hannah Richardson
BBC News education reporter

image captionDownhills Primary School is in special measures

Education Secretary Michael Gove has sacked the governing body of a "failing" school at the centre of a row over attempts to make it an academy.

The governors of Downhills Primary School in Haringey, London, have been replaced with a high-profile "interim executive board".

It will now consult on whether the school will become an academy. Parents had campaigned against such a move.

The Department for Education said the school had been failing its pupils.

The new board is reported to have arrived at the school on Thursday morning to take charge.

It will now begin a consultation on whether it should become an academy - a state-funded but privately run school outside of local authority influence.

Although the power to remove a governing body has existed for some time, it was never used by the previous Labour government.

This government has only used the powers three times before this case, and only once previously for a primary school - Nightingale Primary in Haringey two weeks ago.

A DfE spokesman said such powers were not used lightly, adding: "Downhills has been underperforming for several years and Ofsted has now found that the school requires special measures.

"They have found that the school is failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education and that those responsible for leading, managing and governing the school do not have the capacity to secure the necessary improvement.

"We have therefore decided to appoint an interim executive board to give the school the leadership and expertise it needs to improve.

"Those connected with the school will then be consulted on whether the school should convert into a sponsored academy under the leadership of the Harris Federation."

The Harris Federation is the DfE's preferred sponsor for the school. It has turned around 13 previously failing schools in London, eight of which have now been judged as outstanding.

The DfE spokesman added: "We think the strong external challenge and support from an academy sponsor is the best way to improve schools that are consistently underperforming."


The hand-picked interim executive board will be chaired by Les Walton, the chairman of the the Young People's Learning Agency - the academies' funding body.

Other members include the head of the Harris Federation, Dr Dan Moyniham, and Dame Sylvia Morris.

Dame Sylvia has just retired as head teacher of St Saviour and St Mary Overy Primary School in Southwark. She was made a dame in the Queen's New Year's Honours for services to education, and mentors new head teachers in four London boroughs.

The school's former head teacher Leslie Church resigned earlier this year after Ofsted placed the school in special measures.

Downhills became a focus for protests against the forced expansion of academies into England's primary schools.

Hundreds of parents and supporters attended a protest meeting in January at the school in Tottenham, including local MP and former pupil David Lammy.

The school, which is more than 100 years old, was told in January 2010 by Ofsted that "significant improvement" was needed.

At a parliamentary committee hearing in January, Mr Gove labelled campaigners against the academy plan for Downhills "Trots", claiming they were politically motivated and linked to the Socialist Workers Party.

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