Roke Primary School parents prepare to take on government over Harris Federation plans
PARENTS are preparing to take on the Government over its demands for Roke Primary School to be incorporated into the Harris Federation's academy empire.
Those close to the Kenley school have this week branded the intervention a "hostile takeover" after governors were threatened with the sack by the Department for Education (DfE) if they rebelled against orders.
At a packed emergency meeting, governors revealed they learnt about the academy demands last September, but were gagged after being told they would be removed if they broke the news or refused to sign a "resolution" approving academy plans.
The school community has been angered after their request to become part of Riddlesdown Collegiate was refused by the DfE, which instead ordered it to become part of Harris.
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Recent legislative changes mean the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, can impose conversion to academy status on under-performing schools.
Becky Carrier, 31, who has already recruited 100 people to her campaign to keep the school from Harris' clutches, said: "What we're saying to Mr Gove is, 'just leave us alone.'"
The preschool worker, whose eight-year-old daughter is at Roke, added: "They shouldn't be able to turn round and say, 'right, we are going to turn your school into an academy and you can't tell your parents until we say or you will lose your job' – it doesn't seem right.
"I think it's very underhanded, it's a hostile takeover."
Parents and governors are angry at the DfE intervention following one bad Ofsted report, without another inspection being conducted before the decision to convert the school into an academy.
An inspection carried out by Croydon Council shows the school has made improvements since last June's poor Ofsted report, in which the school's leadership was branded "inadequate".
Since the report, Roke has teamed up with nearby Riddlesdown Collegiate to try to improve, with parents preferring to team up with the long-standing feeder school rather than Harris.
But the DfE want Harris to take control of Roke because it has a better record, the Advertiser understands.
Croydon South MP Richard Ottaway has spoken of his concern at the "lack of consultation" over the DfE's demands.
He revealed that in October, the DfE told Riddlesdown it was "almost certain" to be approved to take the Kenley primary school on instead of Harris, but that this has since "mysteriously" changed.
The MP called for Riddlesdown to become the school to continue working with Roke, and said he would be writing to Mr Gove to seek "further clarification" on the issue.
A DfE spokesman said: "The Harris Federation is our preferred sponsor for Roke Primary. Harris is one of our best academy sponsors, with an exceptional primary team."
A Harris spokesman said: "If we become sponsor we will engage extremely closely with parents, staff and governors.
"We have our roots as a charity in Croydon, having opened our first school here 20 years ago and two more since then.
"We are confident that we could give the staff at Roke the support they need to provide outstanding education for children at the school, which is why we agreed to become the DfE's preferred sponsor."