Education Secretary backs out of confrontation

Leyland Methodist Junior School
Leyland Methodist Junior School
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The leader of Lancashire County Council is furious after a meeting he scheduled with the Secretary of State for Education was cancelled.

County Councillor Geoff Driver had arranged to meet with MP Michael Gove to discuss claims Government officials are targeting a Leyland school in an attempt to force it into becoming an academy.

As previously reported in the Guardian, Leyland Methodist Junior School was recently told by Ofsted that attempts to bring it out of special measures were being hindered, as the headteacher’s time was being taken up with discussions over becoming an academy.

Coun Driver has written a stern letter to Mr Gove, suggesting the reason their meeting has been cancelled is ‘absurd’.

He wrote: “I am extremely disappointed that you have cancelled our meeting, particularly bearing in mind the time it has taken to arrange it.

“But more importantly, I find your reason for cancelling it absurd.

“How can a meeting between the Secretary of State and the leader of a county council possibly be interpreted as breaking the rules of election purdah?

“In any event, you knew we would be in the election period when the meeting was arranged.

“No matter, the fact remains that the activities of your officials in Lancashire are having a detrimental and counterproductive effect on the education of our children, particularly those in schools where we know improvements are necessary, and where we are working with the schools to achieve those
improvements.”

He mentions Leyland Methodist Junior School as an example, as well as another school in the county.

He added: “The email states that you ‘would still very much like to meet with Coun Driver’ but if previous experience is anything to go by, such a meeting would be a long time in the arranging, and in the meantime, I am concerned that your officials might continue their disruptive activities.

“I should therefore be obliged if you would instruct your officials to suspend their activities until we have had the opportunity to meet and discuss how we can best move forward.”

Coun Driver said he had not received a response from the Secretary of State when the Guardian went to print.