Downhills headteacher quits amid schools academy row

PUBLISHED: 14:40 14 February 2012 | UPDATED: 16:00 14 February 2012

Former Downhills Primary School headmaster Leslie Church. Photo: Tony Gay.

Former Downhills Primary School headmaster Leslie Church. Photo: Tony Gay.

TONY GAY at tonephote@aol.com

A Tottenham primary school fighting plans to turn it into an academy has demanded a crisis meeting with Education Secretary Michael Gove after a failed Ofsted inspection saw their headteacher quit.

Downhills Primary School headteacher Leslie Church - who governors described as “tremendously popular” - left his post on Friday after the school was put into special measures following a failed Ofsted inspection.

The school’s governing body “reluctantly” accepted his resignation, but wants to remain at the helm rather than let Mr Gove bring in a new team.

Downhills is one of four Haringey primaries which Mr Gove plans to turn into academies, against the wishes of many teachers, parents and governors.

The Ofsted report, the final version of which is expected by the start of March, will strengthen the Department of Education’s argument that the school should be turned into an academy - meaning it will be run by a private sponsor rather than Haringey Council.

A DfE spokesman said: “We will need to see the final Ofsted judgement before any decision about the future of Downhills is made.

“We have been clear that we consider academy status to be the best way to improve schools that are consistently underperforming.

“Academies have already turned around hundreds of struggling secondary schools across the country and are improving their results at twice the national average rate.

“We can’t just stand by and do nothing when schools are sub-standard year after year.”

But the school is determined to continue to fight Mr Gove’s plans for its future.

Following the report, it has already agreed to work with Haringey Council and the school’s leaders to help prepare a remedial action plan, as well as appoint a mentor headteacher from an “outstanding” school to assist the interim head.

In a statement it said: “We recognise the work that has to be done in improving standards for all of our pupils and now wish to concentrate on addressing the concerns that have been raised by Ofsted with the support of our local authority.”

The board of governors has also written to Mr Gove.

“It is our desire to engage in a constructive dialogue over any proposed changes to the administration of the school,” they said.

“We have therefore written to the Secretary of State of the Department of Education today asking him to meet with us to discuss any plans the department may have for the future for the school.

“It remains our position that any restructuring of the school should not be imposed from above unless and until there has been a full consultation with parents, staff and the local community.

“Recent events indicate that there is a strong depth of feeling among parents and the local community in support of the school and the governing body. “We feel that the best interests of the school and the community would be served by continuity of the current governing body during the process ahead.”

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