By Dave Cohen
Noel Park Primary School is one of several primary schools in the London Borough of Haringey at the centre of a mounting controversy over government plans to convert them to so-called Academy status. Education is an emotive subject and both sides of the Academies debate bandy around accusations of ideological dogmatism. My perspective has been informed by my experience as a parent of a child attending one of the schools being threatened with forced conversion to Academy status.
An Academy is a school that is publicly funded, but is outside the control of a Local Education Authority. Academies were introduced by the Labour government in 2000 to enable an alternative method of managing secondary schools with a perceived history of entrenched failure. The current Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has stated his intention to have all schools convert to Academy status regardless of their achievement level. A school that elects to become an Academy becomes an independent institution and the existing governing body forms the basis of a new Trust created to run the Academy. In the case of a school forced to become an academy, the DfE appoints a “sponsor” to run the school and the existing governing body is expected to oversee the transition. Should the governors reject the Academy order, the Secretary of State has the power to summarily dismiss them and appoint an interim executive board to administer the transition.