Leader tells schools to ban academy brokers

Lancashire County Council leader Geoff Driver

Lancashire County Council leader Geoff Driver

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The leader of Lancashire County Council has told schools to ban government ‘academy brokers’ from their premises, following a row involving a Leyland primary school.

In the latest battle over Government attempts to force more schools to become academies, Coun Geoff Driver has written to education secretary Michael Gove calling for urgent talks to discuss the adverse affects such ‘tactics’ are having on pupils’ education.

His protest was prompted by claims from Ofsted that attempts to drive up standards at Leyland Methodist Junior School, on Canberra Road, were hampered by the amount of time the headteacher had spent fighting government plans to force them to become an academy, as recently reported in the Leyland Guardian.

The school was plunged into special measures last year, but was told it was making progress and improvements at monitoring inspections in September and February.

However, Ofsted’s latest report claimed that the headteacher being involved in lengthy discussions about transferring to an academy had been a ‘significant barrier to improvement’.

Coun Driver said in his letter to Mr Gove: “Surely you would agree this is unacceptable.

“It might be an inconvenient fact for your officers, but we are improving education attainment and I am sure you will understand that I cannot allow them to harm children’s education.

“I have been concerned for some time the tactics employed by these brokers will have an adverse affect on the management of schools and therefore the education of our children.

“We’ve now got that quoted by Her Majesty’s Inspector, which spells it out and I think it is time we met before things escalate.”

The Tory council leader has also told schools academy brokers, employed by the Department for Education (DfE) to try to persuade schools to convert to academies, ‘have absolutely no right of access to schools.’

Chairman of governors at Leyland Methodist Junior School Matthew Tomlinson, who is also a Labour councillor in the area, said: “People might think that myself and Geoff Driver are unusual bedfellows, but we both have the wellbeing of the school children at heart, and I’m grateful for the stance he’s taken on the issue.

“I only hope that Mr Gove takes note of the message coming from a Conservative council in Lancashire.”

Speaking about the ‘harassment and bullying’ from the Government, he added: “We felt under pressure from the DfE because they had visited the school three times and we’d received two letters from Whitehall on the subject.

“We’re just trying to improve standards at the school and that obviously isn’t helping us to achieve that.”