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Parents fail in bid to block Tower Hamlets schools becoming free academies

PUBLISHED: 11:00 02 August 2017 | UPDATED: 11:29 02 August 2017

Move fails to stop two Tower Hamlets schools becoming academies. Picture: Mike Brooke

Move fails to stop two Tower Hamlets schools becoming academies. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

Campaigners have lost the battle to stop two Tower Hamlets state schools becoming independently-run academies in east London after the summer holiday.

Former school governor Shahanur Khan leads delegation to Tower Hamlets council to block Stepney Green College turning academy. Picture: Mike BrookeFormer school governor Shahanur Khan leads delegation to Tower Hamlets council to block Stepney Green College turning academy. Picture: Mike Brooke

A delegation from the Anti Academies Alliance failed to persuade the local authority’s cabinet to block the handover of Stepney Green Maths and Computing College and Clara Grant Primary in Bromley-by-Bow, which have both applied to the government for ‘academy’ status.

The move by the schools takes them out of council control with direct Whitehall funding which begins next month.

They formally applied for 125-year leases on their school properties which the council has to hand over by law, Mayor John Biggs told the delegation at last week’s cabinet.

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

'We can't legally stop schools becoming independent acadermies' Mayor John Biggs tells his cabinet. Picture: Mike Brooke'We can't legally stop schools becoming independent acadermies' Mayor John Biggs tells his cabinet. Picture: Mike Brooke

“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.”

The government took away control of this process from local authorities, he point out.

Former Stepney Green School governor Shahanur Khan, who led the deputation to the town hall, told the cabinet: “The school hasn’t done the consultation properly. The parents can’t be ignored and excluded from the decision.”

But the council can’t force any school “to consult properly”, the mayor insisted.

The Alliance of parents fighting the move held a public meeting the week before over the “threat” to the two schools opting out of local authority control and demonstrated outside Stepney Green demanding more public consultation.

The council is among the most successful education authorities in the country, despite having to deal with the East End’s highest number of children living in poverty, the East London Teachers Association union points out. It sees academies as a threat they fear will drive down education standards among families in poverty.

GMB union spokeswoman Kehinde Akintunde said: “More and more academies are getting rid of support staff. This affects children’s education.

“We don’t want a two-tier system, but need to bring the local community together.”

The public meeting called on Tower Hamlets council to organise a ballot of parents and the wider community.

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