The Guardian has details of a dispute in Devon caused by the decision of a multi-academy trust, which is now running a group of local primary schools and the local secondary school, to make some year groups from two primary schools travel several miles for lessons in another school in the trust. Despite widespread objections from parents and the local parish council, it seems there is little they can do to to change the policy as the trust does not, apparently, even have to consult them. Here are some extracts from the Guardian…
[Janet] May [a parent], who lives in the picturesque Devon village of Lapford, is at the forefront of a dispute which critics say illustrates the power the government has given to academy chains across England to take major decisions over the future of schools, in effect over the heads of local communities.
Parents at Lapford community primary school, which sits in rolling countryside between Exeter and Barnstaple, have been fighting a decision by the multi-academy trust now running it to have its year 6 pupils educated eight miles away at another of its schools.
They worry that, from September, their children will face a lengthy round trip to school every day, that pupils will have to change school twice in two years and thus that the village school may become unpopular with families, putting, they fear, the school’s long-term future at risk.
They have collected a 370-signature petition against the plans – quite a feat in a village of 250 homes – and parents also have the parish council firmly behind them. But there seems little they can do, with the trust not even, it seems, legally required to consult them.
It was only in January last year that Lapford opted to join the Chulmleigh Academy Trust, a multi-academy group formed of three other small primaries and the local secondary school, Chulmleigh community college. At the time, May says, parents were enthusiastic, especially as 56-pupil Lapford had faced an uncertain financial future under Devon county council.
But optimism quickly turned to concern as the academy trust, headed by Mike Johnson, who is principal of Chulmleigh community college, came forward with plans last summer to have older pupils at another of the trust’s primaries, East Worlington school, taught at Lapford four mornings a week, with Lapford pupils travelling to East Worlington on Fridays from last September…
Two weeks ago, the trust decided to press on with its plans, rejecting Lapford parents’ alternative for all Lapford pupils to be taught there by two full-time and one half-time teacher, and with parents volunteering to help out.
Although Johnson says the trust has spent many hours responding to parents’ concerns and answering questions, it seems that it has no legal responsibility to do so. When parents complained to the Department for Education, they were told: “There is no statutory requirement for the academy trust to carry out consultation on the restructuring”.
In this multi-academy trust, there is no individual governing body for each school, and no formal representation for Lapford among the trust’s decision-making directors.
More (including an example from Lincolnshire) at: Academy chains decide where children go to school
Are you a parent, teacher or governor experiencing something like this elsewhere? Are the trust right to be able to make decisions like this, even against local wishes, if the best interests of children are being served? Is it necessarily just an academy situation or might the same happen (or already be happening) in other kinds of schools groups, federations or trusts? Please share in the comments below, on Twitter or by using this form